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US President Trump to Reportedly Order China's ByteDance to Sell TikTok

August 1, 2020 3:53 am

Beijing (PingWest)—US President Donald Trump is planning to sign an order directing ByteDance, the Beijing-headquartered tech company, to relinquish its ownership of the short video sharing app TikTok, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

“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.”

Earlier this month, the Trump administration first publicly stated that it was considering banning TikTok over concerns about its relationship with China and the Chinese governments' access to user data and content review.

Critics and competitors of TikTok have intensified this concern, including Facebook Inc., which criticized the app for alleged censorship.

It is not clear what power Trump will employ to require Chinese company ByteDance to sell off part of its business. But it would represent an escalation of the US government's attacks on TikTok and other Chinese tech companies.

Bloomberg said an announcement on Trump's plan could be made as soon as Friday.

ByteDance acquired Musical.ly in 2017 and merged it with TikTok, becoming an extremely popular and rapidly growing social media in the US. In order to distance the short video app from its Chinese ownership, ByteDance appointed former senior Disney executive Kevin Mayer as CEO of TikTok in May, and separated TikTok operationally from its other apps through dedicated teams.

Fox Business reporter Charles Gasparino said on Twitter on Friday that Microsoft intends to acquire TikTok's US operations. 

ByteDance executives and investors have also been exploring ways to avoid bans on TikTok in the US. Some of ByteDance's US investors, including Sequoia Capital, have been looking into buying a majority stake in the app which owns more than 2.3 billion downloads worldwide and is valued at $50 billion.