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Friday, September 18, 2020

ByteDance offers to sell TikTok’s US operations as ban looms

The Chinese company behind TikTok offered the White House a last-minute deal to prevent a US ban of the app, after President Trump announced plans to block it late Friday night.

The social network, controlled by a company called ByteDance, is enormously popular in the United States with more than 80 million daily active users. But there have been growing fears the company could become a front for Chinese spying efforts.

Under the terms of the new offer, ByteDance said it would completely divest itself from the US operations of the app, Reuters reported Saturday. The offer is a concession for the company, which had previously hoped to keep a minority stake in local TikTok operations. Under the new deal, the company would exit completely and turn over 100 percent control of the app’s US wing to Microsoft.

The deal might also allow for some US ByteDance investors to retain minority stakes of the new business, though it remained unclear.

So far the White House has been cool to the idea, with President Trump telling reporters on Air Force One late Friday that he was intent on banning the service and was in no mood to negotiate on the issue.

“Not the deal that you have been hearing about, that they are going to buy and sell. … We are not an M&A [mergers and acquisitions] country,” Trump said. “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.”

While U.S.-based tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google have raised alarm over their data collection and privacy concerns, TikTok has been under particular scrutiny as a result of its Chinese ownership. Many in the Trump administration as well as independent experts are concerned the company cannot reliably protect US user data from the country’s Communist government.

India has already banned the app and dozens more over similar issues and deteriorating relations between the two countries. China, for their part, has long banned US social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter.

“I don’t think TikTok is ‘uniquely dangerous’, but it is a Chinese app with tens of millions of US users so it stands out in that regard,” Balaji S. Srinivasan, a tech investor, told The Post. “The logic of banning them may well be extended to other [Chinese] apps like WeChat.”

Despite the deal-making overtures, TikTok has struck a defiant tone in public. On Saturday morning the company’s US General Manager Vanessa Pappas delivered a statement to users saying they were prepared to dig in.

“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” Pappas said. “TikTok is a home for creators and artists to express themselves, their ideas, and connect with others across different backgrounds and we are so proud of all the various communities that call TikTok their home.”

She also threw in a dash of economic pressure, giving a shout out to the “1,500 US employees who work on this app every day” — and revealed plans to create 10,000 jobs in the country over the next three years.

Tik Tok
Kyodo News/Sipa USA

Still, many big-time TikTok users have been mourning the potential loss by posting goodbye videos and plotting their transitions to other apps. A U.S.-based TikTok competitor, Byte, recently surpassed their Chinese counterpart on the Apple app store. Facebook plans to launch a retaliatory short-form video app, Instagram Reels, in the US later this month. Another US-based competitor, “DanceFight,” hit the app store Saturday.

Charli D’Amelio, 16, one of the biggest creators on the platform with 75.4 million followers, spent Saturday posting drafts of old dance videos while she still has the chance.

“If this apps gone, it was fun as you can see here. This app changed my life,” said TikToker Ondreaz Lopez, who has 18 million followers. “The party isn’t over though, FOLLOW EVERYTHING,” he added before posting his handle @ondreazlopez, which connects to his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Read More at NYPost

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