TikTok parent company ByteDance has reportedly agreed to sell its U.S. operations to prevent the Trump administration from banning it in the U.S., according to Reuters.
It was not clear on Saturday how the deal would involve Microsoft, or whether it would prevent a ban, but Reuters reported that Microsoft would be responsible for protecting US user data and that the plan would allow another US company to acquire TikTok in the US.
The administration has threatened to ban the video-sharing app for several weeks; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on July 7 that a ban is “something we’re looking at”. President Trump said on Friday “we are banning them from the United States,” but did not provide any details other than his intention to take action on Saturday.
TikTok US General Manager Vanessa Pappas said in a video on Saturday that “we don’t intend to go anywhere” and the company is “here for the long haul”.
TikTok is a subsidiary of Beijing-based ByteDance and has been investigated for its privacy practices and possible ties to the Chinese government. Pompeo has compared TikTok to Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese companies that the Trump administration has identified as threats to U.S. national security.
Last month, TikTok users and K-pop fans encouraged followers to buy tickets to President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, but not to show up, trying to clear the seats at the rally. The turnout for the rally was lower than the Trump campaign expected.
Reports on Friday suggested that the Trump administration might force the Chinese owner of TikTok to dispose of it, and several published reports indicated Microsoft was in advanced talks to take over the company.
U.S. law has no precedent for blocking software like China’s Great Firewall does.