On Saturday, President Donald Trump declared that a deal has just been approved, giving Oracle and Walmart a minority stake in TikTok’s global business, which means the video app will continue its operations in the US, for now. But what exactly is going on with TikTok in the US? Here’s everything you need to know.
ByteDance, which is the Chinese owner of TikTok, has undergone a turbulent few weeks of discussion. On Friday, the Trump administration banned TikTok as well as WeChat, another China-based chat and commerce app from being downloaded, claiming that the app violated the privacy of US citizens. The country’s ultimatum was that for the app not to be shut down completely it would have to be sold to a US entity. However the murky waters have somewhat cleared, having finally received Trumps ‘blessing’ and the official postponement of the apps download ban for one week in order to sort out the following deal.
With a 7.5 per cent stake carved off to Walmart, and a 12.5 per cent stake to Oracle who will soon become the app’s cloud provider, hosting all US user data, ByteDance has now confirmed that Oracle will be a “trusted technology partner,” and Walmart a “commercial partner.”
TikTok confirmed its new status with a tweet over the weekend and added that the arrangement would promise 25,000 jobs across the country by maintaining and expanding the app’s global headquarters in the US. The company ended its statement admitting that there was still work to do on the final agreements, but that Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon will be one of five board members of the newly created company, TikTok Global.
A statement from ByteDance concludes that this arrangement does not entail any transfer of algorithms and technologies, and that Oracle instead has the authority to check the source code—the source code forms the basis for applications and software. As part of the Oracle and Walmart deal, ByteDance confirmed that it would do a round of pre-IPO financing (initial public offering). TikTok Global will then retain an 80 per cent subsidiary of ByteDance as a result, which in turn gives it the majority of control. The companies involved said they would work towards a public listing in the US within a year.
Trump commented that the new company, TikTok Global will “have nothing to do with any outside land, any outside country, it will have nothing to do with China. It’ll be totally secure. That’ll be part of the deal.” ByteDance, the Beijing-based company with majority ownership of TikTok seems to contradict that—however, according to CNBC the company is currently 40 per cent owned by US venture capital firms, which technically means that the Trump administration can claim that TikTok Global is now majority owned by US money.
There are still many speculations, but ByteDance has issued a statement with the hopes of issuing some clarity on the deal that has captured global attention over the last few weeks. All of this being said, the deal is not closed yet. It still needs to be approved by the Chinese government, and on Saturday, China’s Ministry of Commerce published a statement released by the Guardian that accused the US of bullying: “If the US insists on going its own way, China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”
Our contemplations are leaning towards the users though, does the success of this deal depend on them, and are they patient enough to wait all of this out with tempting alternatives looming on the horizon?
Following months of rising tensions over China, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just announced on Monday that the US is considering a ban on Chinese social media apps such as the video-sharing platform TikTok. This news doesn’t really come as a surprise as it had already been discussed for a while whether TikTok being a Chinese-owned company presents data privacy concerns. Could this truly be the end of TikTok?
Speaking to Fox News, Pompeo said: “We are taking this very seriously. We are certainly looking at it. With respect to Chinese apps on peoples’ cell phones, the United States will get this one right too.” Responding to this in a written statement, a TikTok spokesperson wrote on Tuesday: “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”
While this first assertion is true as ByteDance, which is the Chinese company that owns TikTok, recently appointed Kevin Mayer as the new CEO of the video-sharing app. However, many have expressed that, while this change might be a first step in the right direction, more power-shifting would be needed for TikTok to be trusted.
Similarly to the US, last week the Indian government announced that it would ban TikTok and other popular Chinese-owned apps such as WeChat over allegations that they are “engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India.” TikTok responded to these statements by saying: “TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese Government.”
When asked by Fox News’ Laura Ingraham what he thought of US citizens using TikTok, Pompeo answered with: “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” making it clear that this potential new ban was specifically concerning the video-sharing app.
It has become clear that since the app exploded in popularity in the US and other western countries, making it the first Chinese social media platform to gain such traction with users outside of China, TikTok has also been tied to important data privacy concerns. With India and the US both threatening to ban the app in their respective countries, it looks like this is just the first few roadblocks TikTok will encounter. While this is not the end of the app’s golden age just yet, it certainly looks like things are about to go down in the near future.
Only time will tell, but until then, make sure to read more about the many different risks TikTok represents in order to protect your personal data while still binge-watching funny videos.