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TikTok’s future as the US tech giant Microsoft-Oracle bid for it

Tania Mitra
Tania Mitra
Tania is a student of Literature at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. She is interested in Digital Media and Culture and aspired to become a media professional.

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ByteDance owned Tiktok, a social media application with a large youth user base has been under scrutiny for its data and privacy violations for a while.

In 2017, Tiktok purchased musical.ly, a similar American app. This acquisition has been under investigation last year, and in 2019, the company has levied a fine of $5.7 million for violating US privacy laws for children under 13 during the handover.

Moreover, in September 2019, The Guardian confirmed that ByteDance, through Tiktok, was “Advancing Chinese foreign policy aims abroad”. According to documents privy to The Guardian, this was done primarily through flagging and removing political and historical content that was considered controversial including references or critiques of governments and their functioning, riots, genocides, racial tensions, and events like Tiananmen Square.

However, ByteDance said that these guidelines are not used anymore and that new policies have come into place. Yet, for President Trump, this is no assurance, and on August 6, 2020, he issued an executive order “Addressing the Threat Posed by TikTok”. The order essentially imposes a 45-day deadline (till September 15) for Tiktok to sell its American business to an American company. If it fails to do so, the app will be banned from the US, although it is unclear as to how that would happen.

So, what now?

Following the order, Tiktok made a statement saying, “We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request.”

ByteDance, anticipating a ban, was already in talks with Microsoft about selling its US operations. Now, with a ban imminent in its future unless they sell, Tiktok has been courting US companies that are looking to purchase. One of the major considerations of this deal is to ensure that the White House, and President Trump specifically, is satisfied that Tiktok’s ties to ByteDance and therefore China, are permanently dismantled.

Rivaling Microsoft, Oracle has now become one of the chief prospectives for Tiktok. However, their relationship with the center at Washington might prove to play a role in who ends up acquiring Tiktok’s American Operations.

Microsoft and Oracle both have connections with the Government, but while Microsoft has maintained a more neutral stance with ties to both Republicans and Democrats, Oracle’s topmost executives are in support of President Trump.

Although Microsoft has more deals with the government, on Tuesday, August 18, President Trump conveyed his support for Oracle’s purchase of Tiktok and called it a “great company”.

Oracle and Microsoft are vying to purchase Tiktok’s operations not only in the US but also in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, with Microsoft expressing interest to manage operations in Europe and India as well.

What is Tiktok’s Response?

Following the order, Tiktok made a statement saying, “We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request.

Tiktok has maintained that information about American users is stored in the US. Based on these statements, and the lack of consolidated proof, there is no real way of knowing if data is being passed on to the Chinese government. Tiktok has reiterated several times that its operations are independent of Beijing.

In an interview on NBC’s “Today,” general manager for TikTok’s operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, Vanessa Pappa, has asserted “We’re not a national security threat. We have very strict data controls in place. We have an amazing team building a world-class infrastructure, and that’s something that we put front and center in terms of protecting our users.”

Despite the ban, she is hopeful of Tiktok’s future in the US stating that “TikTok is here for the long run. We are more than confident in our future.”


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