A Few More Seconds on the Clock for TikTok


Chloe Hall, Contributor

Hours before TikTok downloads were set to be banned from U.S. app stores on Sunday, President Trump changed his tune to now support, “in concept,” an Oracle-TikTok partnership to salvage the app’s U.S. user base. The ban was pushed back to Sept. 27 in hopes that a deal would be confirmed, but TikTok has reported confidence that the app is “here to stay.”

Yet the proposed deal remains controversial as conflicting statements about ownership emerge from ByteDance, Oracle, and the U.S. government. Oracle, the database management company that won the bid to become TikTok’s U.S. partner over Microsoft, claims it will receive full ownership over TikTok once the deal goes through, and Trump agrees this is the only dynamic the U.S. would support.

However, ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, has shared a much more limited view of Oracle involvement. The proposed deal says Oracle and Wal-Mart, another potential commercial partner, would only have up to 20% ownership in the company, as well as hosting all U.S. data to eliminate concerns about data privacy for U.S. consumers. 

ByteDance has also been clear that Oracle will not have access to TikTok’s AI-powered algorithm, the main draw to the app, but the U.S. company would be able to look over its source code. Several U.S. Senators, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, issued a statement to President Trump criticizing this arrangement and outlining that any deal made “must ensure that TikTok’s U.S. operations, data, and algorithms are entirely outside the control of ByteDance or any Chinese-state directed actor.” Trump has suggested that the deal should allow the U.S. Treasury to collect “a very substantial portion” of the sale price as compensation for operating in the United States.

Vanderbilt student Ruiting Zhu raises the concern that “the TikTok ban is not only a heavy blow against ByteDance, a young Chinese technology company, but also a heavy blow against the confidence of foreign companies who are interested in investing in the U.S. No countries will ever benefit from the TikTok ban.” 

This disagreement is another installment in Trump’s hardline approach towards his trade war with China. He has been implementing tariffs on China since 2018, which has limited U.S. purchases from China and contributed to the medical shortages in March. 

Rumors of a U.S. ban on the Chinese-owned social media platform began on July 7 when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shared that the White House was “certainly looking at it,” after India banned TikTok and other Chinese apps over security concerns. Trump even implied the ban could be used to “punish” China over the coronavirus. 

Trump has been using his foreign policy track record in his reelection pitch by attempting to differentiate his emphasis on “American owned” goods and the “Made in China” Biden jabs that Trump has been making at campaign rallies.

The deal is still racked with uncertainty over whether it will be approved by Trump in the form of minority U.S. ownership ByteDance is advertising. But for now, it is clear that TikTok has lived to see another download.