TikTok’s US general manager says service isn’t going anywhere

The U.S. general manager of Chinese video sharing app TikTok has said that the service is ‘not planning on going anywhere’ after President Donald Trump vowed to ban it over security and privacy concerns.

‘We’re not planning on going anywhere,’ said Vanessa Pappas in a video address on TikTok. ‘When it comes to safety and security we’re building the safest app because it’s the right thing to do.’

‘We are so proud of all the various communities who call TikTok home,’ Pappas said, urging the app’s millions of users to ‘stand for TikTok.’

Pappas claimed that the app employs 15,000 people in America, and plans to add an additional 10,000 jobs in the coming years.

It follows Trump’s vow to sign an executive order banning the app, which is expected as soon as Saturday, and has set off a flurry of acquisition speculation, with Microsoft reportedly exploring a deal to take control of the Chinese app in order to allow it to continue operating in the U.S.

'We're not planning on going anywhere,' said Vanessa Pappas, US general manager of TikTok, in a video address on the service

‘We’re not planning on going anywhere,’ said Vanessa Pappas, US general manager of TikTok, in a video address on the service

Two people familiar with the matter said on Saturday that China’s ByteDance has agreed to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok completely in a bid to save a deal with the White House.

U.S. officials have said TikTok under its Chinese parent poses a national risk because of the personal data it handles. 

ByteDance’s reported concession will test whether Trump’s threat to ban TikTok is a negotiating tactic or whether he is intent on cracking down on a social media app that has up to 80 million daily active users in the United States.

Trump told reporters onboard Air Force One late on Friday that he would issue an order for TikTok to be banned in the United States as early as Saturday. 

‘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.

ByteDance was previously seeking to keep a minority stake in the U.S. business of TikTok, a proposal which the White House had rejected. 

Trump told reporters he could ban TikTok in the U.S. as soon as Saturday, while traveling back from Tampa on Air Force One Friday

Trump told reporters he could ban TikTok in the U.S. as soon as Saturday, while traveling back from Tampa on Air Force One Friday

Under the new proposed deal, ByteDance would exit completely and Microsoft Corp would take over TikTok in the United States, the sources said.

Some ByteDance investors that are based in the United States may be given the opportunity to take minority stakes in the business, the sources added. About 70 percent of ByteDance’s outside investors come from the United States.

The White House declined to comment on whether Trump would accept ByteDance’s concession. ByteDance in Beijing did not respond to a request for comment

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

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

As relations between the United States and China deteriorate over trade, Hong Kong’s autonomy, cyber security and the spread of the novel coronavirus, TikTok has emerged as a flashpoint in the dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

ByteDance has been considering a range of options for TikTok amid U.S. pressure to relinquish control of the app, which allows users to create short videos with special effects and has become wildly popular with U.S. teenagers.

ByteDance had received a proposal from some of its investors, including Sequoia and General Atlantic, to transfer majority ownership of TikTok to them, Reuters reported on Wednesday. The proposal valued TikTok at about $50 billion, but some ByteDance executives believe the app is worth more than that.

ByteDance acquired Shanghai-based video app Musical.ly in a $1 billion deal in 2017 and relaunched it as TikTok the following year. 

ByteDance did not seek approval for the acquisition from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews deals for potential national security risks. Reuters reported last year that CFIUS had opened an investigation into TikTok.

TikTok’s wide popularity among American teens has brought scrutiny from U.S. regulators and lawmakers who fear their personal information could fall into the hands of government officials in Beijing 

The United States has been increasingly scrutinizing app developers over the personal data they handle, especially if some of it involves U.S. military or intelligence personnel. Ordering the divestment of TikTok would not be the first time the White House has taken action over such concerns.

Earlier this year, Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd sold Grindr LLC, a popular gay dating app it bought in 2016, for $620 million after being ordered by CFIUS to divest.

In 2018, CFIUS forced China’s Ant Financial to scrap plans to buy MoneyGram International Inc over concerns about the safety of data that could identify U.S. citizens.

ByteDance was valued at as much as $140 billion earlier this year when one of its shareholders, Cheetah Mobile, sold a small stake in a private deal, Reuters has reported. The startup’s investors include Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.

The bulk of ByteDance’s revenue comes from advertising on apps under its Chinese operations including Douyin – a Chinese version of TikTok – and news aggregator app Jinri Toutiao, as well as video-streaming app Xigua and Pipixia, an app for jokes and humorous videos. 

Microsoft is ‘in talks’ to buy Chinese-owned TikTok after Trump said he is considering banning the video app in the US

The New York Times reported on Friday that Microsoft is in talks to acquire TikTok, according to sources who note the deal could ‘alter the app’s ownership.’

The report comes amid speculation President Trump would mandate Chinese parent company ByteDance to give up ownership of the platform.

TikTok has raised concerns over its potential threat to security, along with claims that the Chinese government is using the technology to spy on citizens.

Microsoft is currently in talks with ByteDance for ownership of TikTok, sources told The New York Times

Microsoft is currently in talks with ByteDance for ownership of TikTok, sources told The New York Times

‘We are looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok,’ Trump told reporters at the White House Friday.

‘We are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok.’ 

However, it seems Trumps plans may have hit a snag, as Microsoft is currently in talks with ByteDance for ownership.

Anonymous sources told The New York Times that the deal is in the works, but were unclear where the two firms stood.

However, Bloomberg reports that Trump plans to make a decision to order ByteDance to sell its ownership of TikTok in the US. 

TikTok took the world by storm in 2017, which allows users to create original videos that are shared in the app for millions to see.

Currently 80 million Americans use the app, which has raised concerns among the government citing TikTok’s data collection of users that may be in the hands of Chinese officials. 

Talks of banning the popular video app followed shortly after many users attempted to sabotage Trump’s June rally in Tulsa, Arizona.

TikTok users and K-pop fans said they had signed up for the Trump rally in Tulsa – which marked the US President’s return to the trail since campaigning was side-lined by the coronavirus crisis.

Trump’s campaign declared it had more than a million ticket requests, but in the hours before the event, crowds looked significantly lighter than expected at the 19,000-seat BOK Center. In the end, just 6,200 people attended

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