News and Commentary

Microsoft Says It Spoke With Trump After TikTok Threat, Deal May Still Happen
Signage for ByteDance Ltd.'s TikTok app is displayed on a smartphone in an arranged photograph taken in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. India's unprecedented decision to ban 59 of China’s largest apps is a warning to China's tech giants, who for years thrived behind a government-imposed Great Firewall that kept out many of America’s best-known internet names.
Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Microsoft said that it plans to continue discussions with Bytedance, the parent company of Chinese video-sharing app TikTok, after speaking with President Donald Trump, who expressed interest in banning the social media app from the United States on Friday amidst cyber-security concerns.

In a blog post on Sunday, Microsoft said CEO Staya Nadella had spoken with the president over the phone and the company was now “prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States.”

The Wall Street Journal, confirming the existence of the phone call, reported that White House officials believe the president would be receptive to a deal so long as the national security concerns were resolved.

As recently as Friday evening, Trump was dismissive of any plans that would involve a U.S.-based company acquiring TikTok, a company that lawmakers and government officials have increasingly expressed concerns about in recent months.

But Microsoft now believes that it may reach a deal with Bytedance no later than mid-September, and the proposal could result in Microsoft structuring a deal in which they would own the video-sharing app for Canadian and Australian markets as well, said the company in the blog post.

This new structure would build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections. The operating model for the service would be built to ensure transparency to users as well as appropriate security oversight by governments in these countries.

Among other measures, Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States. To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred.

Back in July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the only people who should download Tiktok are those who want the Chinese Communist Party to have access to their information. TikTok has denied that it gives China access to data.

But TikTok hesitation has also been a rare source of bipartisan concern, and even this weekend, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) expressed concerns about allowing a company to acquire the Chinese video-sharing app.

“I have been very opposed to TikTok, I was one of the first to expose the Chinese links, and I have urged that TikTok be closed down in America,” Schumer told reporters Sunday, explaining that any potential deals would still leave lingering questions.

“How will the data be stored and secured? Will still the Chinese have links into TikTok? So before I would be for such a merger, I’d have to get some answers to these questions,” he said.

Fox Business, citing “people close to the matter,” reports that the president is expected to make a decision about whether to allow an acquisition, or to ban the video-sharing app entirely, by early this week.

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