TikTok Sale Uncertain As Trump Ban Looms: Reports

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Negotiations for Microsoft to buy the US operations of Chinese-owned TikTok are on hold after President Donald Trump threatened to bar the social media app and came out against the sale, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

Trump has pledged to get tough on the massively popular video-sharing app, which US officials have said could be a tool for Chinese intelligence — a claim the firm, owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance, has repeatedly denied.

While there has been no sign yet of the ban he threatened on Friday to impose, his words were reportedly already adding to uncertainties for TikTok.

“Before Mr. Trump’s remarks, the two sides believed the broad strokes of a deal could be in place by Monday,” the paper reported on a possible TikTok-Microsoft sale, citing unnamed sources.

It also said Trump’s threats and opposition to the deal had prompted TikTok to make further concessions, including adding up to 10,000 jobs in the US over the next three years.

TikTok defended itself on Saturday, with its general manager for the US, Vanessa Pappas, telling users that the company was working to give them “the safest app,” amid US concerns over data security.

“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” Pappas said in a message released on the app.

TikTok, especially popular with young audiences who create and watch its short-form videos, has an estimated one billion users worldwide.

It has grown even faster as the coronavirus pandemic has pushed people physically away from each other, but into close contact online.

Earlier media reports had suggested Trump would require that the app’s US operations be divested from ByteDance, but he instead announced a ban.

Trump’s announcement drew criticism from some in the tech sector, including former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos, who questioned whether the move was spurred by national security concerns.

“A 100 percent sale to an American company would have been considered a radical solution two weeks ago and, eventually, mitigates any reasonable data protection concerns,” he wrote on Twitter.