Type to search

Ex-Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Planning Group to Buy TikTok

US senators will consider alternative strategies for control of social media platforms and data, rather than rush to pass a bill that would force the sale of TikTok in the US. With Beijing opposed to the bill, a legal challenge also looks likely

Some US senators are concerned that a rush to ban TikTok could spur a backlash from young voters in the lead-up to a tight election, and say that other strategies on social media platforms may be more effective if the bill faces a legal challenge, which seems likely (Reuters image).


Former US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has proposed putting a group of investors together to try to buy TikTok.

Mnuchin, who headed the US Treasury in the Trump administration, revealed his plan a day after the US Lower House passed a bill that would give the short-video app’s Chinese owner ByteDance about six months to divest its US assets or face a ban.

“I think the legislation should pass and I think it should be sold,” Mnuchin told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday. “It’s a great business and I’m going to put together a group to buy TikTok,” he said.


ALSO SEE: EU Probe Into AliExpress Over Online Compliance, Illegal Products


China has condemned the bill as an “act of bullying”, but Mnuchin said: “There’s no way that the Chinese would ever let a US company own something like this in China.”

The Chinese government has said it strongly opposes a forced sale of TikTok and it has the capacity to veto any sale by ByteDance. And some analysts say there is also the potential for retaliatory action against US tech firms if Washington is seen to have acted abruptly.

The issue was a hot topic of discussion on social media in China with 78 million views and thousands of posts, according to CNN.

However, US officials say China’s stance is hypocritical, given that Beijing has for years blocked Google, YouTube, X, Instagram and Facebook, most of which did not agree with the country’s authoritarian rules on data collection and content.

TikTok insists that the bill is a “ban” and has urged senators to listen to their constituents before taking any action. Its CEO Shou Zi Chew said on Wednesday the company would issue a legal challenge to try to stop a ban.


Senate taking its time on TikTok bill

However, the US Senate appears to be in no rush to support the bill. Some senators want the chamber to take its time in deciding whether to back the bill, which the House backed by 352-65 on Wednesday, just eight days after the proposal was introduced.

There is broad support in the Senate for taking action to address national security threats from foreign apps like TikTok but no agreement on the right approach.

Senate Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell told Reuters she wants legislation to address broad concerns about foreign apps that will hold up in court and is not sure the House bill goes far enough.

“We’ll probably have a better idea in a week what we think the options are,” Cantwell said. “Of course, we want to the strongest possible tool and we want it to be the most robust tool we can get.” Cantwell said she has thought about holding hearings.

Senator Ron Wyden, a leading Democrat on tech issues, said he is still reviewing the House bill and has “serious concerns about any app that gives the Chinese government access to Americans’ private data. I’ll also say this: history teaches us that when lawmakers rush to legislate on tech and social media, mistakes get made.”

Senator Ted Cruz, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, has said the bill should be open to changes, which could delay any action.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said only the Senate will review the legislation – and gave no timeline for action.

TikTok boss Shou Zi Chew was on Capitol Hill for a second day of meetings with senators on Thursday. In a video posted on Wednesday, he said TikTok that has had more than 25 million views in less than a day after the legislation was put to the House.


Concern over creators’ jobs, young people’s votes

He said that if the bill becomes law and leads to a ban on TikTok in the United States, it “would take billions of dollars out of the pockets of creators and small businesses… [and] put 300,000 American jobs at risk.”

The Senate’s No-2 Democrat Dick Durbin said: “Cutting out a large group of young voters is not the best-known strategy for re-election.”

Still, the House bill was backed by some key senators, including Senate Intelligence committee chair Mark Warner and the top Republican on the panel Marco Rubio.

The pair said they “look forward to working together to get this bill passed through the Senate and signed into law”

The lopsided vote means senators should move quickly, House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said.

“The overwhelming vote today is a strong signal to the Senate that they need to act,” she said.

Some senators oppose the bill, such as Republicans Rand Paul and Mike Lee, but many others have expressed support for acting quickly.


  • Reuters with additional input and editing by Jim Pollard


Note: Further details (on potential for retaliatory action against US firms) were added to the text on March 15, 2024.




TikTok Ban Would Help ‘Enemy of the People’ Facebook: Trump


‘If They Pass It, I’ll Sign It’: Biden Backs Bill to Ban TikTok


Suspicion And Mistrust Continuing to Shadow TikTok


TikTok Hit With $370m EU Fine Over Children’s Data Breaches


TikTok to Spend Billions in Southeast Asia, Focus on E-Commerce


US and Canada Order TikTok Cut From All Government Phones


TikTok CEO to Tell US Lawmakers: ‘We’ve Never Shared Data’


Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


AF China Bond