TikTok Takes a Turn


Courtesy of Creative Commons

TikTok is owned by the Chinese parent company ByteDance. The app was created in 2017 and originally named Musical.ly.

Charlotte Turner and Katie Miller, Co-Editor in Chief and Rooster Reporter

On Aug. 6, President Trump issued executive orders that would ban two apps, TikTok and WeChat, from operating in the U.S. if they were not sold by their Chinese parent company ByteDance by Sept. 15. Trump claims that there are national-security risks due to the Chinese ownership of TikTok.

ByteDance created the social media app TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly, in Nov. 2017. Zhang Yiming, a 36-year-old software engineer, founded ByteDance.

Trump worries about U.S. user data being funneled to Chinese authorities. He has made two executive orders forcing ByteDance to either sell or spin off its U.S. TikTok business within 90 days of his order.

“There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” Trump said in his order.

The U.S. is not the only country skeptical about ByteDance relaying information into their own government. India decided to ban TikTok on June 29, 2020. 

“In a statement, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asserted that they were ‘stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India,” Trump said in response to India’s ban.

The U.S. government worries that data captured by TikTok could potentially allow China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage. Due to the potential breach of security, President Trump is insisting that TikTok be bought by a U.S. company.

TikTok’s estimated selling price is $50 billion by ByteDance. Prospective buyers for U.S. TikTok assets include Microsoft and Walmart.

President Trump said in his latest comments that he would give Microsoft the go-ahead to pursue a deal if a “very substantial” portion of the proceeds go to the U.S. Treasury. Microsoft aims to buy TikTok in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

After the initial ban threat by President Trump, export restrictions have been put on artificial intelligence technology by China, including the type that TikTok uses to choose which videos to spool up to its users. 

This restriction means ByteDance would have to obtain a license to export any restricted technologies to a foreign company. This allows ByteDance more time to figure out their potential buyer.

Microsoft has confirmed that it has held talks with Chinese technology company ByteDance to acquire its trendy social app TikTok in the U.S. Microsoft said in a statement that it will keep working with the U.S. government in order to make a deal by Sept. 15.