tiktok on the clock
September 28, 2020

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Sunday blocked the Trump administration from banning U.S. downloads of TikTok, which is owned by China's ByteDance. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols came hours before the policy was due to take effect. The decision gives ByteDance more time to get the U.S. and China to approve its deal to partner with Oracle and Walmart to form a new company called TikTok Global that would run the short-video app's U.S. operations.

President Trump has preliminarily accepted the arrangement, but it still must get formal approval from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment and from the Chinese government. China has sent mixed signals on the deal, with the editor of an influential Communist Party tabloid praising it while Chinese state media called it "dirty and unfair." Harold Maass

August 1, 2020

TikTok's Chinese parent company, ByteDance, has agreed to completely sever ties with the social media app's U.S. operations with Microsoft taking over, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters Saturday.

The report comes a day after President Trump said he planned to ban the popular video app in the U.S. amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. TikTok became caught up in the conflict over the U.S.'s growing concerns that ByteDance was harboring users' personal data, which the Trump administration considers a national security risk.

Microsoft has reportedly been working to purchase the app for a while, and it looks like the deal will go through, although it's unclear if Trump will remain committed to his threat. Previously, ByteDance was aiming to retain a minority stake in the U.S. business, a proposal the White House rejected. Bloomberg reported earlier Saturday that threatening to ban the app in the U.S. was a negotiating tactic Trump used to force ByteDance to fully sell its stake.

If ByteDance has indeed made that concession, as indicated by Reuters' sources, the move will test whether Trump was bluffing. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

October 24, 2019

VSCO girls might be subject to a national security threat.

At least that's what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) are suggesting with a new request for Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. The two Senate Intelligence Committee members sent a letter to Maguire on Wednesday evening to ask for an investigation into TikTok and the Chinese company that owns it, The Washington Post reports.

TikTok is an app full of short videos typically set to music, and it's particularly popular among Gen Zers. It's been downloaded over 110 million times in the U.S., but its parent company ByteDance is actually based in China and could be subject to Chinese censorship rules.

Cotton and Schumer want to know if TikTok follows those Chinese laws in the U.S. to control what American users can watch, saying in their letter that doing so could "compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party." They also suggest in the letter that TikTok's Chinese backing could make it a "potential target of foreign influence campaigns like those carried out during the 2016 election on U.S.-based social media platforms."

The senators' request follows one from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) asking Maguire to examine TikTok as an alleged manifestation of the "Chinese government's nefarious efforts to censor information inside free societies." ByteDance argues that American user data is stored in the U.S., but it's still unclear how closely it follows China's laws. Kathryn Krawczyk

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