TikTok, the short video sensation app that took the world by storm, is in trouble: Everyone wants to use it, and governments want to ban it because of security concerns. With such success behind it, techies started to dig into who’s behind the platform. The Chinese company ByteDance owns TikTok, raising all kinds of safety questions. Many cybersecurity pundits and experts consider TikTok gives private information to ByteDance without the consent of the users, information that ByteDance, in turn, gives to Chinese authorities. Raising all sorts of alarms that led to India —one of the major markets of the platform— to perform ‘TikTok Ban’ on June 29, 2020, a decision that followed the territorial disputes between China and India.
In the Western Hemisphere, criticism of TikTok is almost as abundant as its use. The platform generates massive amounts of content that tend to go viral. Because some videos bypass the trends algorithms, leaking themselves to more mainstream platforms like Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp & Facebook. A fact that gathered the attention of the political jet-set in the United States, as they worry about the implications that the use of the app secretly gives data to the Chinese Communist Party. It’s a known fact that Chinese law requires domestic companies to “cooperate” with that country’s intelligence apparatus.
Downfall Begins – TikTok Ban
In October 2019, Conservative Senator Marco Rubio asked the US government to lead an inquiry regarding TikTok’s links with the Chinese government, censorship —right in the middle of the NBA controversy over its ties to the Communist Party— and a growing trade war between the US and China. In early July, the Donald Trump administration gave TikTok an ultimatum to sell its Chinese stakes by September 15 to an American company so they can take over their US operations or face a total ban.
It’s at this point when Microsoft steps in to try to buy TikTok from ByteDance. The Seattle-based software giant wants to buy only the American, New Zealander and Australian assets of TikTok, a slice of the pie worth nearly 50 billion USD$. The purchase will allow TikTok to operate under the tutelage of the American company. Negotiations are ongoing. It is possible that Microsoft would want to add other regions with potential into the mix.
TikTok Back In India?
There’s a caveat for Microsoft, regions like India and Europe, whose attitudes towards Chinese industrial espionage regarding sectors like 5G has them at odds with many Chinese tech companies. Any deal that Microsoft signs with ByteDance need approval by local regulators. It won’t be easy for Microsoft to reach a deal with the Chinese
The tech giant faces a significant challenge conducting business with the People’s Republic of China, as the American firm employs nearly six thousand people in the Asian nation with offices in Beijing, Suzhou, and Shanghai, all under the tight scrutiny of Chinese regulators that severely limit Microsoft’s flagship cloud service, Azure, in favor of companies like 21Vianet, Tencent Holdings, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Baidu Inc, and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.