TikTok is the latest social media app to dominate American teens’ attention. The platform has made headlines recently for its ties to the Chinese government, which owns most of its parent company, ByteDance. Now, Donald Trump has given TikTok 45 days to change ownership or get out of the US market.
TikTok’s most likely buyer is Microsoft, and such a deal needs to be reached by September 15th.
Growing Security Concerns
The world over has reacted to the clear security challenge that TikTok poses. India banned the app over a month ago, along with dozens of other mobile apps connected to the Chinese government.
The United States has been aware of the app’s security risks for some time. About a month ago, the Trump Administration started to consider banning the app altogether. Pompeo told Fox News a month ago,
“We are taking this very seriously and we are certainly looking at it. We have worked on this very issue for a long time, whether it’s the problem of having Huawei technology in your infrastructure — we’ve gone all over the world and we are making real progress getting that out — we had declared ZTE a danger to American national security.”
The app has potentially supplied the Chinese government with terabytes of data from people all over the world. It also has attracted criticism for its invasive privacy practices. The app collects more data about its users than most other mainstream social media apps, such as Twitter and even Facebook.
In light of these concerns, Trump said the US would ban the app by September 15, unless there is a change in ownership.
Trump Okays Microsoft Deal
"Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella & President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States. Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns…" pic.twitter.com/wTRV58ZgwI
— JERRY DUNLEAVY (@JerryDunleavy) August 3, 2020
Trump gave his blessing for a buyout, implying that the only way the app will survive in the US is if an American company buys it.
“Here’s the deal. I don’t mind if — whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else — a big company, a secure company, a very American company buys it.”
He also recognized the importance of TikTok’s brand surviving the buyout. “It’s probably easier to buy the whole thing than to buy 30 percent of it. … Who’s going to get the name, the name is hot?”
The president will not accept a deal if the United States Treasury does not benefit handsomely. He added, “But the United States should be reimbursed, or should be paid a substantial amount of money because without the United States they don’t have anything, at least having to do with the 30%.”
Microsoft: A Willing Buyer
Microsoft’s response to Trump’s comments speak volumes about the company’s interest in TikTok. The company issued a statement following Trump’s comments:
“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.”
If Microsoft buys Tiktok, it will be the company’s chance to compete with big players like Google and Facebook for screen time. While Microsoft enjoys a high market share in hardware (Microsoft computers), cloud storage (One Drive), and PC software (Windows, Office), the company has failed when it comes to social platforms.
Microsoft fails to get consumers to “hang out” on its platforms as they do on Facebook, Instagram, or Snap. Buying TikTok may be the company’s chance to ditch the suit-and-tie reputation. They can do so all while taking a national security threat off the table.