President Trump Threatens to Ban TikTok, ByteDance Looks to Divest Mega App to Microsoft

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In an effort to salvage the company’s business, TikTok parent company ByteDance is pursuing a deal that would see the Beijing-based company relinquish 100% control of the app to U.S. tech giant Microsoft.

President Trump told reporters his administration would be banning TikTok during an impromptu briefing aboard Air Force One late yesterday.

“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump said, adding that he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to effect the ban.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hinted such a move may be coming last month.

“We’re certainly looking at [banning it],” Pompeo said, adding that the administration takes the issue “very seriously.”

“With the respect to Chinese apps on people’s cellphones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right. I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we’re looking at,” Pompeo said at the time.

China has been accused of using TikTok to harvest information from users’ smartphones, for use by the Chinese Communist Party for intelligence purposes.

There have also been numerous international reports that Chinese tech firms compromise user privacy by installing spyware or malware that’s then used to track users without their knowledge.

TikTok has been downloaded over 2 billion times worldwide and 175 million times in the U.S. alone, according to Internet statistics firm Wallaroo.

According to a report this morning by Reuters, a deal being negotiated would see Microsoft handle all U.S.-based user data for the app.

From Reuters:

“Under ByteDance’s new proposal, Microsoft…will be in charge of protecting all of TikTok’s U.S. user data, the sources said. The plan allows for a U.S. company other than Microsoft to take over TikTok in the United States, the sources added.”

No word yet on whether such a move would be enough to appease the Trump administration’s concerns.

“Not the deal that you have been hearing about, that they are going to buy and sell…We are not an M&A (mergers and acquisitions) country,” Trump said.

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