UPDATE, SATURDAY P.M.: The WSJ has reported that Microsoft has paused the purchase of the U.S. operation of social media, video-sharing app TikTok following Trump’s threat to ban the app on Friday.
The situation seems dicey as the two companies are trying to gather more information on Trump’s course of action.
“The administration has very serious national security concerns over TikTok. We continue to evaluate future policy,” said a White House spokesperson in a statement made Saturday.
UPDATE, SATURDAY A.M.: TikTok has fired back at President Trump’s plan to shut it down.
A TikTok statement addressed the President’s comments. “These are the facts: 100 million Americans come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, especially during the pandemic. We’ve hired nearly 1,000 people to our US team this year alone, and are proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the US.
“Our $1 billion creator fund supports US creators who are building livelihoods from our platform. TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors come from the US. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”
Vanessa Pappas, general manager for TikTok US, posted a video reply as well.
UPDATE: President Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One Friday he will ban Chinese-owned video app TikTok from the United States as soon as tomorrow, NBC News reported.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump said.
Trump did not say whether he will issue an executive order or use some other method.
“Well, I have that authority. I can do it with an executive order or that,” Trump said.
Trump also told reporters that he rejected the reported spin-off deal involving Microsoft buying TikTok, NBC News reported.
Earlier, Trump said his administration was looking at various options on TikTok.
EARLIER: Heat around video-sharing app TikTok racheted up Friday, as President Donald Trump said he’s considering taking steps to ban the service, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, amid reports that Microsoft — yes, Microsoft — is interested in buying it.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has been weighing whether the Trump Administration should force Beijing-based ByteDance to sell TikTok’s U.S. operations. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said earlier this week he would have a recommendation soon. As tensions with China grow, TikTok has been under pressure for months. It hired former Disney exec Kevin Mayer as CEO and COO of ByteDance, and was said to be looking at setting up new headquarters outside of China. On Tuesday Mayer publicly defended TikTok, saying in a blog post it would do what it had to do to remain “available” and “successful.”
A rep for Microsoft wasn’t immediately available to comment on the reports of its interest. But a move like that by the software giant would dramatically shake up the social media landscape.
TikTok is hugely popular. Facebook recently offered cash incentives to lure creators from the platform to a competing service called Reels. In comment to a congressional committee this week, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg called his company uniquely American. Mayer blaster the Facebook chief for cloaking his business in a patriotic mantle in order to defang a much larger rival.
“We’re looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok. We may be doing some other things. There are a couple of options, but a lot of things are happening. So, we’ll see what happens, but we are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok,” Tump told reporters today on the South Lawn of the White House on the way to his helicopter.
Several large US investment funds were also said to be discussing the possibility of taking TikTok off ByteDance’s hands in a transaction that would value it at about $50 billion.
A TikTok spokesperson said: “While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok. Hundreds of millions of people come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, including our community of creators and artists who are building livelihoods from the platform. We’re motivated by their passion and creativity, and committed to protecting their privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”
TikTok’s US business was launched in 2018, when ByteDance acquired US social media start-up Musical.ly and merged it with the Chinese version of the app, which is still called Douyin in China.
TikTok was recently banned in India on security concerns.
Tiktok doesn’t releases user data. In late April, tracking firm Sensor Tower said the app had 165 million installs in the U.S.
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