Microsoft is in advanced discussions over a potential TikTok purchase in the US, as President Trump looks to address the platform’s privacy concerns.
After TikTok’s meteoric rise during lockdown saw it become the most downloaded app of 2020, parent company ByteDance and host-nation China were dragged through the mud in the mainstream media. Reports of invasive data collection software within TikTok’s programming sparked global trepidation over Chinese surveillance, with India banning the platform indefinitely. The US, one of the platform’s biggest markets, is now considering following suit, with Trump stirring up anti-TikTok sentiment in congress. One of the platform’s few remaining options to retain its major presence in the US, therefore, is to sell its sovereign rights to a new parent company. Microsoft has enthusiastically put up its hand.
From the very moment ByteDance acquired short bite video-app Musical.ly in 2017, the White House expressed concern about allowing these platforms into western marketplaces. Despite frequent assertions that the app is apolitical and has no affiliation to China’s Communist Party, ByteDance’s lack of transparency when probed on TikTok’s processes set alarm bells ringing. In fact, we’re only now seeing reports that the US Committee for Foreign Investment came close to ruling against permitting TikTok in the US from the out.
In the years since, the US has become the second largest generator of profits and revenue for TikTok, but negative attitudes toward the platform still persist. Exacerbated by the fact that Western democracies are now looking to distance themselves from China and its industries in lieu of serious human rights violations, ByteDance is being backed into a corner over next moves for its social media giant. Chief exec Yiming Zhang has this week revealed that talks have been opened with Microsoft to potentially take over TikTok markets in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. If this were to happen, TikTok would have no further affiliation to ByteDance in these nations.
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) August 3, 2020
Microsoft taking the reins would guarantee privacy for TikTok users overseas that previously just hasn’t been there, and that’s the salient point here. While the core experience would be largely untouched – according to a blog post from Microsoft – efforts would be primarily geared towards ‘adding world-class security and safety precautions.’ Winning people round and repositioning the brand is the absolute priority for ByteDance.
On the US side, Microsoft’s acquisition would ensure that servers are housed on home soil and that all TikTok’s processes become public knowledge, allowing users to browse and post freely without stressing about the prospect of prying eyes.
Experts believe that ByteDance is desperate for outside intervention to keep TikTok on top, but let’s not get it twisted, Microsoft will have secured a gigantic coup if a deal is struck. Despite being a top gaming, software, and tech developer, Microsoft has failed to really enter the social space – barring its progression of Bing – and landing the hottest application of 2020 would do absolute miracles for expanding its advertising arm.
Nothing is set in stone as it stands, but word from the White House is that an executive order may be passed banning TikTok on US soil if ByteDance fails to find a buyer before September 15th. Right now, Microsoft is holding all the cards.