ByteDance CEO says goal of President Trump is to ban TikTok, not force sale

(Image credit: TikTok)

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Source: TikTok (Image credit: Source: TikTok)

What you need to know

  • ByteDance has been put on the clock by President Trump.
  • It has been given 45 days to agree a sale of TikTok to Microsoft.
  • In a leaked internal letter, CEO Zhang Yiming says that the "primary goal" of the White House is still to ban the app.

According to multiple outlets, the CEO of TikTok parent company ByteDance has said that the "primary goal" of President Trump and Washington remains a ban on TikTok in the U.S. rather than its sale.

According to Reuters:

ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming told employees in an internal letter on Tuesday that the United States goal was not to force a sale of TikTok U.S. operations but rather to ban the app, and that some people had misconceptions about the situation.

The letter, according to the report, was issued to ByteDance's Chinese employees following criticism of the firm after it was revealed that a deal may be in the works to sell TikTok to Microsoft.

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As Sputnik reports, the letter reportedly stated that anti-China sentiment "has risen in many countries in the last two years":

the tech firm's founder and head Zhang Yiming said current circumstances mean the company should anticipate more difficulties in the foreseeable future.

The latest reports suggest that President Trump has approved a 45-day window for ByteDance and Microsoft to come to an agreement over a sale. Inexplicably, President Trump has also demanded that the government gets a "substantial portion" of the sale stating:

"The United States should get a very large percentage of that price, because we're making it possible. It would come from the sale, which nobody else would be thinking about but me, but that's the way I think, and I think it's very fair."

As per the BBC, DLA Piper lawyer Nicholas Klein noted that the government "doesn't have the authority to take a cut of a private deal" through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. MIT Technology Review reported Charlotte Jee also said that the President's comments were "pretty astonishing" and akin to "Mafia-like behavior," by threatening a ban to drive the price of TikTok down and then taking a cut of the deal afterward.

In a statement on Sunday, ByteDance said it was "faced with all kinds of complicated and unimaginable difficulties, including the tense international political environment, the collision and conflict of different cultures, and the plagiarism and smear of competitor Facebook." In a letter sent to employees yesterday, CEO Zhang Yiming said:

Although we have repeatedly emphasized that we are a private company and we are willing to adopt more technical solutions to eliminate concerns, CFIUS still believes that Bytedance must sell TikTok's US business. We do not agree with this decision because we have always insisted on ensuring user data security, platform neutrality and transparency. Considering the current environment, we must also face the decision of CFIUS and the executive order of the US President, while not giving up exploring any possibilities. We tried to conduct preliminary discussions with a technology company on the cooperation plan and formulate a plan to ensure that TikTok can continue to serve American users.

The situation appears to remain extremely fluid at this time.

8 Comments
  • I am speaking through the little speculation AND research I have done. Hasn't TikTok been proven to have been collecting users Data by the Chinese Communist Party? I see no issue with a POTUS wanting to rid of such a threat. Simply my thoughts. I'd love for someone to educate me if they can.
  • I'd like to see your source for this proof. Not disputing it per-se, but it seems the current approach is to throw out unsubstantiated accusations, and suggesting others disprove them. Maybe something other than The Enquirer, The Sun and Breitbart as sources.
  • well I'm sure the prospect of kindly Microsoft collecting users data makes every american feel warm and fuzzy inside...
  • And who exactly forces anybody to use the app? And it's not like data collection and shady use of them is not trick of the trade with most if not all the tech companies. Cambridge analitica anyone, FB, Google, Amazon, etc you name it have been doing identical stuff for a while... anyone concerned with tiktok should be with them too... One thing tiktok leadership said which is very interesting IMHO is that they are a private company... Remember a private company has no allegiance to any one government for all we know the Chinese party just made a better offer than trump did... Don't you think for a second that a US firm wouldn't deal with foreign government or entities just because they have a US international headquarter... It's not new look at the cold war and all the industrial espionage... It's just online now and wide spread among the population... Then again it's rather easy to protect your information if you take 2 seconds to learn how... It's never been easier infact... And cheap... No effing excuses and no gov regulations period... Grow up and stop relying on toons in the white house to protect yourself from yourself... And that's unbelievable coming from Republicans...
  • So Privately Owned Company A wants to buy Privately Owned Company B but then B has to pay Trump some of their proceeds of the sale? How is this bloke breathing let alone President of the US? I say MS shouldn't buy it and then Trump can ban it
  • If you want to understand how authoritarianism works, watch Donald Trump.
  • Hey Stephen, other WC Editors! This whole TikTok case is getting messy and I don't really understand who are the parties and what are their motivations. Could you clear that up, maybe in a follow-up article? I don't get why Microsoft would want to buy a company for an app that is "about to get banned". I also don't get why Trump thinks it's possible to force said company, and why said company would lay down and take it. Also why would they care if it was banned in the US? So many questions!
  • This whole tik Tok thing has gotten out of control. How are you going to ban a app that supposedly collects data when the US does the same thing. How are you going to request some of the money from the sale? I can't comprehend it. I think Trump is really trying to make sure China doesn't overtake the US in tech. My opinion. Every app collects data. Every website collects data. A lot of people use tik Tok, my son included. He uses it to drive traffic to his Etsy. A lot of people will be affected if it's banned. Maybe Microsoft is thinking about the economy. I don't know.