According to the New York Times, President Donald Trump said at a White House briefing that TikTok must sell its US operations by September 15th, or be forced to shut down. He is open, however, to a Microsoft takeover of the outfit. He also wanted the US Treasury Department to be paid as part of the deal, though did not explain how that would work.
“I don’t mind whether it’s Microsoft or someone else, a big company, a secure company, a very American company buys it,” Trump told reporters, according to Bloomberg. “It’ll close down on Sept. 15 unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal, an appropriate deal, so the Treasury of the United States gets a lot of money.”
Microsoft had published a blog post yesterday that confirms it is having acquisition discussions with ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company in China. It said that it hopes to finalize the deal by September 15th, but did not state that the date was provided by the President. The company also confirmed that CEO Satya Nadella has been in conversations with him.
“[Microsoft] is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” the company said in the blog post. If the deal goes through, that would result in Microsoft acquiring TikTok operations not just in the US but also Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Even though TikTok has said that it does not take direction from ByteDance, there have been lingering concerns that TikTok presents a national security threat supposedly by providing American user data to the Chinese government.
Reuters reported that the September 15th deadline was initially provided by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which provided the 45-day extension in order for Microsoft to make the purchase inquiry.
Not everyone is pleased with the idea of a Microsoft acquisition. The New York Times reports that White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said that instead of purchasing TikTok, the US should ban the app as well as other Chinese-run services like Tencent’s WeChat. He has accused Microsoft of enabling Chinese censorship and said that the company should divest any other business in China if it goes through with the TikTok acquisition.
Microsoft, in its blog post yesterday, said that it would offer “world-class security, privacy and digital safety protections” for TikTok users. It stated: “Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States. 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.”
Update (4:40PM ET 8/3): TikTok has issued the following statement in response: “TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it is a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection. We're motivated by their passion and creativity, and committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform as we build TikTok for the long term. TikTok will be here for many years to come."