TikTok parent company ByteDance has reportedly agreed to sell its American operations to prevent the Trump administration from banning it in the US, according to Reuters.
It was not clear Saturday how the deal would involve Microsoft, or whether it would stave off a ban, but Reuters reported that Microsoft would be in charge of protecting US user data, and that the plan would allow another American company to take over TikTok in the US.
The administration has threatened to ban the video-sharing app for several weeks; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on July 7th a ban was “something we’re looking at.” President Trump said Friday “we’re banning them from the United States,” but didn’t provide specifics other than he planned to take action as early as Saturday.
TikTok US General Manager Vanessa Pappas said in a video on Saturday that “we’re not planning on going anywhere” and the company is “here for the long run.”
TikTok is a subsidiary of Beijing-based ByteDance, and has been scrutinized for its privacy practices and potential ties to China’s government. Pompeo has compared TikTok to Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese companies the Trump administration has designated as threats to US national security.
Last month, TikTok users and K-pop fans encouraged followers to buy tickets to President Trump’s rally in Tulsa but not show up, in an attempt to leave seats at the rally empty. Turnout for the rally was lower than the Trump campaign had expected.
Reports on Friday suggested the Trump administration would potentially force TikTok’s Chinese owner to divest it, and several published reports indicated Microsoft was in advanced talks to acquire the company.
US law doesn’t have any precedent for blocking software, the way China’s Great Firewall does.