The story of TikTok’s possible ban and/or acquisition in the US is moving very fast. As we reported yesterday, Microsoft is in talks not just with TikTok and its parent company ByteDance, but with the US government and with President Trump himself, about a possible deal.
In its statement on that, Microsoft said it plans to complete those discussions “no later than September 15”. Now Reuters has reported that this hard deadline came from outside. “This is a deadline that was put to ByteDance and Microsoft by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which scrutinizes deals for potential national security risks,” it claimed.
There’s more. “I set a date, of around September 15th, at which point it’s going to be out of business in the United States. But if somebody, whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, buys it, that’ll be interesting,” said Trump yesterday, in public remarks transcribed by TechCrunch.
“I did say that if you buy it, whatever the price is, that goes to whoever owns it, because I guess it’s China, essentially, but more than anything else, I said a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States. Because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen… So it’ll close down on September 15th, unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it, and work out a deal, an appropriate deal, so the Treasury of the — really the Treasury, I suppose you would say, of the United States, gets a lot of money. A lot of money.”
Suffice to say, there’s no template for this kind of transaction, which is being pursued not just with that first deadline of 15 September in mind, but also with the looming US presidential election – and thus potentially a new administration come January. And still with no clarity on what happens to TikTok outside the countries (the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) not mentioned in Microsoft’s statement on its acquisition hopes.
“We have not fully decided on the final solution. The attention and rumors of TikTok from the outside world may continue for some time,” wrote ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming yesterday in a letter to staff. He’s not wrong.
Other angles on this story emerging yesterday included a spicy post by ByteDance’s official account on its Toutiao news app criticising “the plagiarism and smears of competitor Facebook”; a good piece of analysis by The Verge on why Microsoft wants TikTok (“data, data, and more data”); and The Trichordist’s view that the US administration “should make TikTok sale contingent on paying songwriters”.
Meanwhile, a survey by MusicWatch suggested that 71% of US TikTok users agreed with the statement “the US Government should not be involved in deciding which apps I should use”. For this administration, at least, it seems that hope is in vain: not only has it delivered a ‘sell or we’ll shut you down’ message to TikTok and ByteDance, but it expects a “substantial” chunk of the sale price.