Microsoft moves ahead with talks to buy TikTok after Trump vows to ban app

Donald Trump had threatened to ban the app by executive order over the weekend

Andrew Naughtie
Monday 03 August 2020 09:27
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TikTok fights to hang on as Trump threatens to ban video app: 'We’re here for the long run’

Microsoft has confirmed it is still pursuing talks to buy the social app TikTok, with reports that Donald Trump has given the negotiations a 45-day deadline.

The news comes just after TikTok’s US general manager, Vanessa Pappas, stood up for the app, saying “we’re here for the long run”.

Donald Trump had threatened to ban TikTok from the US as early as last weekend, but ultimately took no action, instead talking with Microsoft about its plans. In a statement on Sunday, the company announced that after a discussion between the president and its CEO, Satya Nadella, it is still committed to buying the app, “subject to a complete security review” and a mid-September deadline.

“Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks,” said the statement, “and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020. During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States government, including with the president.”

The company addresses the Trump administration’s security concerns head-on, emphasising that: “Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States,” and that “to the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred”.

The security issue is what will fundamentally determine TikTok’s future in the US. Concerns about data retention and privacy have risen to the top of the agenda as the government takes an increasingly hawkish attitude towards China, its longtime suspicions over trade and military manoeuvres only aggravated by the Chinese Communist Party’s moves to exert greater control in Hong Kong.

For its part, TikTok and its Chinese owner ByteDance have maintained that its security measures are more than adequate to protect American users, even as various branches of the US military have banned their service members from using it.

The app’s general manager in the US, Vanessa Pappas, recently maintained that the app is “here for the long run”.

“Millions of Americans who use TikTok every day,” she said in a video message, “bringing their creativity and joy into our daily lives. We’ve heard your outpouring of support and we want to say thank you. We’re not planning on going anywhere.”

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