Technology giant Microsoft is in advanced talks to acquire TikTok’s US operations, according to a media report on Friday, even as President Donald Trump said his administration is considering to ban the popular Chinese-owned video app.
“We’re looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok,” Trump told reporters at the White House. India has banned as many as 106 Chinese apps, including TikTok, a move welcomed by both the administration and the lawmakers.
“We may be doing some other things. There are a couple of options. But a lot of things are happening, so we’ll see what happens. But we are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok,” Trump said in response to a question.
The Wall Street Journal on Friday night reported that Microsoft, headed by Indian-American Satya Nadella, is in advanced talks to acquire the US operations of TikTok. The deal could run into billions of dollars.
“A deal could be completed by Monday, according to people familiar with the matter, and the talks involve representatives from Microsoft, ByteDance and the White House. Talks are fluid, and a deal may not come together,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
China-based ByteDance is the parent company of TikTok.
In recent weeks, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused TikTok of collecting personal information of Americans. “India has banned 106 Chinese apps, including TikTok, that threatened its citizens’ privacy and security,” he told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.
Media reports also said the Trump administration will soon order ByteDance to divest of its ownership of TikTok’s US operations.
“In its current form, TikTok represents a potential threat to personal privacy and our national security. I applaud the Trump administration for taking this critical step, but we must do more than simply remove ByteDance from the equation,” Senator Marco Rubio said.
“Moving forward, we must establish a framework of standards that must be met before a high-risk, foreign-based app is allowed to operate on American telecommunications networks and devices,” Rubio said, adding he is preparing legislation to do just that.
Meanwhile, Senators Josh Hawley and Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers calling for the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Zoom and TikTok for reported violations of Americans’ civil liberties and of their close ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“Based on numerous reports, we are extremely concerned that Zoom and TikTok have disclosed private information about Americans to the PRC and engaged in censorship on behalf of the Chinese government,” the Senators said.
“As tens of millions of Americans turn to Zoom and TikTok during the COVID-19 pandemic, few know that the privacy of their data and their freedom of expression is under threat due to the relationship of these companies to the Chinese government,” they wrote.
“Of particular concern, both Zoom and TikTok have sought to conceal and distract from their meaningful ties to China, holding themselves out as American companies. This concealment is alarming—Chinese tech firms are notoriously bound to draconian intelligence laws, media regulations, and extrajudicial pressure that compels them to censor and spy for China’s state security services,” the senators said.
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