TikTok keeps generating interesting news. In the past week, it is about Microsoft’s pursuit of it — fueled by the U.S. government’s not-too-subtle nudging. Each time I write about TikTok I thought it’d be the last, but how could I resist that?
I first wrote about the potential implications of it being China’s first AI-based Internet success outside of China. My second piece discussed the security concerns that raised with many observers. My latest article discussed how TikTok users were using it to power social protest.
Those security concerns never went away, and they (or perhaps anger at TikTok possibly helping undercut President Trump’s Tulsa rally) spurred the President to threaten a ban (as India had just done). It is not at all clear that the U.S. could actually implement such a ban, but users went nuts anyway. “Everyone is running around like a chicken with their head cut off,” one user told The Wall Street Journal.
Then things got really interesting. ByteDance, TikTok’s owner, said it would consider selling TikTok’s U.S. operations. Fox News, which first reported the talks a month ago, when President Trump had first brought up the potential ban. Numerous outlets confirmed late last week that talks were now at an “advanced stage.” The deal is expected to also include Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
The President almost scuttled the deal before it got any further, but relented after a weekend call from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft has committed that it would bring TikTok’s code to the U.S. — believed to be some 15 million lines of A.I. code — within a year, and protect the consumer data. It set September 15 as the deadline for a deal.
Experts suggest the deal could be for as much as $30b.
Many wondered at Microsoft being the lead suitor. Mr. Nadella is doing his best to change Microsoft’s sometimes stodgy image, but it still has been viewed as more corporate-oriented. Former Microsoft executive S. Somasegar told The Wall Street Journal: “If you look at the major acquisitions over the last five years or so, the common theme is to…