ByteDance, the Chinese software giant which owns TikTok, has agreed to divest from its US operations, which would allow the popular viral video service to continue operating in the country, Reuters has reported, citing two sources said to be familiar with the matter.
Under the deal, Microsoft would be tasked with ‘protecting’ the data of TikTok’s US users, while another American company would have the opportunity to take over its US operations. Furthermore, US-based investors would be given the opportunity to buy minority stakes in the company.
The Trump administration has not commented on whether the proposal might be acceptable. ByteDance and Microsoft have not made any mention of the reported deal.
'Not Planning on Going Anywhere'
In a related development, TikTok spokesperson Vanessa Pappas issued a message to TikTok users, saying the company was “not planning on going anywhere,” and is “here for the long run,” ready to invest in its user community and create 10,000 new jobs over the next three years.
A message to the TikTok community. pic.twitter.com/UD3TR2HfEf— TikTok (@tiktok_us) August 1, 2020
Reports on last-minute talks of a possible deal to stop TikTok from being banned in the US market come in the wake of comments by President Trump on Friday that he was ready to prohibit the Chinese-owned video sharing platform from being used over “security fears.” According to a spokesman, Trump does not look favourably on the possibility of an American company taking over TikTok’s US operations.
Earlier Friday and Saturday, US media reported that Microsoft has been in negotiations with ByteDance on buying TikTok in the US, with other corporate investors outside China also said to be considering buying up a majority stake of shares in the company.
TikTok has vocally denied claims of election “meddling” and user data theft, pointing out that the service is not a “go-to app to follow political news,” and emphasizing that all “TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access.”
The app has already been banned on US military-issued smartphones, and Congress is considering prohibiting federal government employees from using the service.
Since its release in 2016, TikTok has accumulated over 800 million monthly active users, including 150 million users from the US.
The Trump administration’s tiff with TikTok comes in the wake of restrictions against Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE, and is part of a broader US-China conflict on issues ranging from trade to geopolitical tensions in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the nations’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.