Where do I start with all of this? When we left the office on Friday evening it looked like TikTok and WeChat were heading for bans in the United States. As we log on again on Monday morning, everything has changed. Here’s what we know after a weekend of drama in the Trump versus TikTok saga.
A lot has happened since the US Commerce Department issued an order on Friday saying it would force Apple and Google to remove TikTok and WeChat from the Play Store and App Store. Fears that TikTok’s 100 million users in the region would be affected were then squashed on Saturday when TikTok issued a statement saying that a deal had been struck between ByteDance, Oracle, and Walmart.
The statement, which was posted on the TikTok Comms Twitter channel, announced that Oracle will be responsible for hosting all US user data and securing associated computer systems to ensure US national security requirements are fully satisfied.
— TikTok_Comms (@tiktok_comms) September 19, 2020
Donald Trump is reported to have approved the deal in principle, which will see a new company formed named TikTok Global, which will be headquartered in the United States.
Both Oracle and Walmart will take part in a TikTok Global pre-IPO financing round in which they will be allowed to buy up to a 20% cumulative stake in the company. Reuters reports that Oracle Corp will take a 12.5% and Walmart Inc will snap up the other 7.5%. Around 40% of ByteDance is already owned by American investors. The White House is likely to use some of these investors, along with Oracle and Walmart, to be able to present TikTok Global as being 53% owned by US companies. In reality, ByteDance will own 80% of TikTok Global.
«As a part of this agreement, TikTok will run on the Oracle Cloud and Oracle will become a minority investor in TikTok Global,» said Oracle CEO Safra Catz. «Oracle will quickly deploy, rapidly scale, and operate TikTok systems in the Oracle Cloud. We are a hundred percent confident in our ability to deliver a highly secure environment to TikTok and ensure data privacy to TikTok’s American users, and users throughout the world. This greatly improved security and guaranteed privacy will enable the continued rapid growth of the TikTok user community to benefit all stakeholders.»
It has also been reported that Trump wants a $5 billion US education fund to be part of the deal, although the president did not state which companies would be paying the bill. ByteDance has since responded saying that it is not aware of any such development. CNN reported that Trump had previously expressed a desire for the companies in the deal to make a payment to the US Treasury, but was surprised when he was told such an arrangement would be illegal.
What about WeChat getting banned?
Meanwhile, a judge in California has blocked the US government’s attempts to band WeChat, the Chinese owned messaging and payments app that essentially is the cornerstone of young lives in the country. US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said that serious questions relating to the constitution’s first amendment, guaranteeing free speech, need to be asked.
Judge Beeler, sitting in San Francisco, said: «While the general evidence about the threat to national security-related to China is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest.»
So even after a deal with Microsft was snubbed by ByteDance earlier this month, it looks like TikTok and WeChat are here to stay. Trump has defiantly softened his stance on the TikTok issue, after first appearing like he would not settle for anything less than a complete buyout of TikTok’s US operations, perhaps in an attempt to avoid alienating 100 million younger citizens just before the election on November 3rd. The WeChat saga is not over yet, but we’ll keep an eye on things for you.