TikTok Offered the U.S. Government a Secret Deal, Which It Refused

a person is offering a deal envelope to someone, but they're indicating 'No' with their hands. There is also a circle with a line through it and a TikTok logo.
TikTok Deal Remix by Caterina Rose Cox: tmicons/Shutterstock DDimaXX/Shutterstock STILLFX/Shutterstock Padop/Shutterstock

More details of Project Texas, TikTok’s last-ditch attempt to save itself in the U.S., has emerged in a new report by the Washington Post. According to a copy of a proposal obtained by the outlet, the ByteDance-owned company offered federal officials extraordinary control over its U.S. operations. The Biden Administration allegedly refused the deal in 2022.

The proposal suggested that federal officials could pick TikTok’s American board of directors, which would scrutinize the app’s content moderation and data privacy decisions in the U.S.

The app also offered to effectively provide the Government with veto power over every new person it hires. In addition, it said a contractor with the Department of Defense could “monitor” its source code.

But most shocking of proposal of all is what WaPo calls the “kill switch,” which would have given the Biden administration power shut down TikTok in its entirety if they felt the app remained a security threat. 

In effect, the proposed plan would grant unprecedented government oversight and block global executives from interfering with decisions for TikTok’s U.S. operations. 

The Biden administration, though, allegedly rejected the proposal. Instead, it decided to pursue the legislation that forces TikTok to sell to a U.S. buyer or face a nationwide ban. The full reasoning behind the decision remains unknown. 

What is Project Texas?

On the TikTok website, the company describes Project Texas as an “unprecedented initiative dedicated to making every American on TikTok feel safe, with confidence that their data is secure and the platform is free from outside influence.”

According to TikTok, the framework has five pillars: independent governance, data protection and access control, software assurance, content assurance, and monitoring and compliance. 

Some aspects of Project Texas have already been implemented. In a senate hearing last year, TikTok CEO Show Chew said that for a number of years, TikTok has been building a “firewall” which “seals … protected US user data from unauthorized foreign access.”

“The bottom line is this American data stored on American soil by an American company overseen by American personnel,” he said.

Why did the U.S. government reject TikTok’s deal?

The latest proposal obtained by the Washington Post raises questions about why the government would reject an offer that would seemingly address many of the national security concerns raised against TikTok.

However, in a statement to the Post, a spokesperson for the Biden administration said that the proposed measures were “insufficient.” 

The official added: “While we have consistently engaged with the company about our concerns and potential solutions, it became clear that divestment from its foreign ownership was and remains necessary.” The official declined to specify what was meant by “insufficient.”

Perhaps, then, the Biden administration feels that Project Texas didn’t go far enough. But with a prospective TikTok ban looming, it looks like the ultimate kill switch might not be off the table after all.

Further reading:

Content for Creators.

News, tips, and tricks delivered to your inbox twice a week.

Newsletter Signup

Top Stories