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Microsoft looks to buy TikTok, including its Australian arm, as President Trump moves to ban it

- August 3, 2020 3 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock

The phone app has become an international social media hit for its parent company ByteDance, but many countries have raised concerns about the potential security and spying by the Chinese government through the app, despite TikTok strongly asserting its independence from Beijing.

Last month India banned TikTok among 59 Chinese apps and the company has been fighting a very public rearguard action in several other countries, including Australia, to avoid bans there.

The app’s Australian newspaper campaign pleaded “Don’t make TikTok a political football”.

“TikTok does not share information of our users in Australia with any foreign government, including the Chinese Government, and would not do so if asked. We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity,” said TikTok Australia general manger Lee Hunter upon announcing the campaign.

Microsoft said in a statement that it was continuing to discussions that the company “fully appreciates the importance of addressing the president’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury”, and looks forward to continuing dialogue with the government and president.

Microsoft set itself a deadline of September 15 to cut a deal with ByteDance, and “may invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in this purchase”.

If TikTok changes hands, Microsoft says it “would build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections” to ensure transparency for users and “appropriate security oversight by governments” in the US, NZ, Australia and Canada.

America users would have their data transferred to and remain in the US, deleting it from international servers.

 

ByteDance accuses Facebook of ‘plagiarism and smears’

News of the ongoing discussions comes as TikTok’s parent company ByteDance launched a broadside at Facebook, accusing the US social media giant of “plagiarism and smears” with going into details.

Reuters reports that the company used its own Chinese news platform, Toutiao, to say it set out to become a global company, but “faced all kinds of complex and unimaginable difficulties, including the tense international political environment, collision and conflict of different cultures and plagiarism and smears from competitor Facebook.

Last week TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive, said  in a blog post that “Facebook is even launching another copycat product, Reels (tied to Instagram), after their other copycat Lasso failed quickly.”

Facebook launched Lasso in 2018, but shut it down last month.

Mayer said TikTok welcomed competition but Facebook was using patriotism in a bid to reduce it.

“The entire industry has received scrutiny, and rightly so. Yet, we have received even more scrutiny due to the company’s Chinese origins,” he wrote.

“We think fair competition makes all of us better. But let’s focus our energies on fair and open competition in service of our consumers, rather than maligning attacks by our competitor — namely Facebook — disguised as patriotism and designed to put an end to our very presence in the US.”