Microsoft is in advanced talks to buy the US operations of TikTok – the popular Chinese-owned video app that has been a source of national security and censorship concerns, according to reports.
The potential deal would be a victory for both companies, making Microsoft a major player in the social media arena and providing relief to TikTok and its parent company Bytedance, a target of President Donald Trump.
President Trump said on Friday that he would take action as soon as Saturday to ban TikTok in the United States. His comments aboard Air Force One came after published reports that the administration is planning to order China’s ByteDance to sell TikTok.
A message to the TikTok community. pic.twitter.com/UD3TR2HfEf— TikTok (@tiktok_us) August 1, 2020
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” President Trump told reporters on Air Force One as he returned from Florida.
The president said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to enforce the action, insisting, “I have that authority.”
He added: “It’s going to be signed tomorrow.”
Microsoft declined to comment.
Reports by Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal citing anonymous sources said the administration could soon announce a decision ordering ByteDance to divest its ownership in TikTok.
There have been reports of US tech giants and financial firms being interested in buying or investing in TikTok as the Trump administration sets its sights on the app.
The New York Times and Fox Business, citing an unidentified source, first reported on Friday that Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok.
TikTok issued a statement on Friday saying that, “While we do not comment on rumours or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.”
On Saturday, it posted a short video from its US general manager Vanessa Pappas, saying that “We’re not planning on going anywhere”.
ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017, then bought Musical.ly, a video service popular with teens in the US and Europe, and combined the two. A twin service, Douyin, is available for Chinese users.
TikTok’s fun, goofy videos and ease of use has made it immensely popular, and US tech giants like Facebook and Snapchat see it as a competitive threat. It has said it has tens of millions of US users and hundreds of millions globally.
But its Chinese ownership has raised concerns about the censorship of videos, including those critical of the Chinese government, and the potential for sharing user data with Chinese officials.