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TikTok deal threatens Microsoft's integrity, some employees say

Tiktok Xbox
Tiktok Xbox (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Several Microsoft employees expressed disapproval of a potential purchase of TikTok by Microsoft.
  • Comments and a poll from an internal Microsoft Yammer group indicate negative feelings from multiple employees.
  • A deal to purchase TikTok could cost Microsoft between $25 billion and $40 billion, according to experts.

Microsoft employees spoke out against a potential purchase of TikTok through one of the company's internal Yammer groups. Business Insider saw several comments and a poll in a Yammer group called "CEO Connection," which allows Microsoft employees to ask Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella questions and discuss topics that are relevant to all of Microsoft. While the comments and poll only represent a small group of Microsoft employees, there is a large negative sentiment within them.

One poll in the Yammer group asks, "Should Microsoft buy TikTok" to which 63 percent of employees said "no" and 18 percent said "not sure." Only 18 percent of the responders said "yes." At the time Business Insider saw the poll only 250 people had voted. That's a small sample size out of the more than 150,000 people that work for Microsoft.

"Especially since Satya became CEO, I've felt nothing but pride to be part of this company," said an employee in a comment that Business Insider saw. They added, "This is the first time in a long time that I've had doubt gnawing at the pit of my stomach that maybe we're not doing the right thing."

Other comments echoed similar sentiments. In reference to President Donald Trump's comments that any deal to purchase TikTok should include a payment to the United States Treasury, one employee called that concept a "bribe." Another said, "This deal is unethical from pretty much any perspective," also stating "that Microsoft would even be considering stepping into this situation is unthinkable."

In a final comment shared by Business Insider, an employee stated "Even if it turns out we were pursuing acquiring them before this, and the POTUS was just [talking] about tax revenue benefits not an explicit payoff, the fact the US government is forcing the sale still looks bad on us. We should walk away."

A potential deal to purchase TikTok could be valued between $25 billion and $40 billion, according to experts that spoke to Business Insider. That range is mostly above Microsoft's largest acquisition ever, which was when the company purchased LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in 2016.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

24 Comments
  • Yes. Just the thought of this deal seems wrong. I've got to say I agree with the 63 percent.
  • I'm not a fan of the acquisition myself. On the one hand, Microsoft involving itself in "relevant" consumer technologies looks good. However, one thing I like with Microsoft is that its services and devices are structured around delivering a product or service for a fee. TikTok is an example of the "free" social media platforms that have the most easily justified privacy concerns. These kinds of things operate on the "you are the product" business model. Services built on this premise are where I think people think behind-the-scenes data collection and security/privacy issues are prevalent. I'd rather not see Microsoft adopt these kinds of goals and ideals, where targeting user data as the primary source of income is the goal. As such, the acquisition leaves me uneasy. The one thing I like from Apple, and where I like Microsoft products, is the front-end purchase gives the companies incentive to turn a profit BEFORE having to look at the sleazier revenue sources.
  • "The one thing I like from Apple, and where I like Microsoft products, is the front-end purchase gives the companies incentive to turn a profit BEFORE having to look at the sleazier revenue sources." Agreed, but we are in the minority compared to most consumers, who look at upfront price as the major (in some cases only) consideration.
  • As far as privacy concerned I think Microsoft does a far better job in protecting it. Chinese companies are also relentlessly taking over many businesses and controlling resources in Africa and South America. This deal may seem unfair, but China is also very protective to western countries.
  • Better than China? Sure. Better than Google? Probably. Better than Apple? Probably not. Remmeber, Apple was willing to resist even the US government when it wanted to access user iPhone data. That stuff might change a bit with iCloud, since Google controls the back-end. When your consumer trust is built on paid products (like hardware or annual software licenses), there is more of an immediate cost hit when you dip your toes into profiting off data mining like TikTok does. This doesn't seem like a concern over whether or not Microsoft is more ethical than the Chinese government, it's about whether or not the acquisition of TikTok negatively influences the overall philosophy and goals of data privacy within Microsoft.
  • Don't worry. If Microsoft buys TikTok, they will just close it in a year! Provacy issues solved! :D (yes, this post is intended as a joke/troll)
  • But you're not trolling based on Microsoft's history!
  • I'd be so relieved if they announced they were buying Reddit instead. Can't really think of any other social media platform that maybe has potential to work out for Microsoft though. TikTok just doesn't fit.
  • I am looking it as a platform for MSFT to unleash the huge testing of their AI they have been craving for so long..
    Buy it,
    protect privacy some,
    Have a Humongous data to play with (I am talking video, images, text, comments etc),
    Make some ad money while at it,
    Sell it after 3 years.
  • While Nadella has been generally lauded for the large acquisitions Microsoft has made on his watch, from LinkedIn to Minecraft and GitHub, I'm not seeing how this is a good fit or in Microsoft's best long-term interests. There is a strong possibility that if this deal goes ahead it will end in tears (like the Nokia acquisition) and become Nadella's first big failure as CEO.
  • I don't know why they would take a risk on what could easily be just a phase in the young adult market. Facebook only survived because the information posted has a slight permenance. Photos and events for example. Twitter is a way for people to scream to the world what they are thinking at that very moment, and that has a place too. Hopefully someone will listen. Also news. But then we have vine, MySpace, aim, and so many more. I could be wrong though. I'm only 26 and have no idea why snapchat is prospering.
  • On top of everything said in the article, there is also a high chance this whole thing might go the way of MySpace or Vine. Seems like a weird investment.
  • I like it from the perspective that it would strongly encourage Microsoft to adopt a greater focus on the consumer market. I also trust MS a little bit more than Facebook and Twitter with this kind of platform. That said, I'm only speaking as a Microsoft customer and user. I don't know that it would be a good decision for Microsoft. As is usually the case with acquisitions, whether it proves to be a success or not comes down much more to the long-term strategy, execution (including integrating cultural differences between the teams), more than whatever we on the outside think matters.
  • lol... only reason this is a story and they don’t want to buy it is because of Trump... if managed correctly TikTok has proved it could be a huge money maker... never let politics get in the way of a good buy... and oh please we are talking about a communist country of course they have access to all the data. At least Trump is giving them a chance to sell before shutting down their communist government sponsored app. With all the Ips the Chinese government steals I wouldn’t feel bad about this at all.
  • It being Trump may be a factor but, more generally, the issue is that the US president could be considered to be extorting the current owners into selling to a US company and then taking a cut from the deal. The fact that Trump is likely the only US president who would do this kinda makes people's dislike of Trump a moot point with regard to the deal. If another president were the sort to take similar actions then people would likely view them as unfavourably as they do Trump.
  • Agreed.
    You can guarantee 99 percent of the nay sayers are Dems.
    It's only a bad acquisition because orange man bad.
  • On the one hand, I can understand being discomfited by Microsoft buying TikTok when the owners have been forced to see by the US government. On the other hand, if the alternative to Microsoft buying it is it closing altogether then I'm not sure that that's better.
  • Microsoft would be very foolish to acquire TikTok in any form, in no way does it fit in with the core businesses and products of the company and they couldn't even shoehorn it in to their gaming services because the demographics are distinct. I can only deduce they want to purchase to access consumer data from the 16-24 year old demographic. Also: it is just a trash app for thots and narcissists.
  • The platform is useful for AI research, not just consumer data. But it's tentative in its connection with their core businesses for sure. It could be expanded to start touching on some of their other efforts, but they'd need to get the user demographics to expand as well, and that might be hard. That being said, it doesn't strictly speaking need to do anything but be profitable. They're allowed to expand into new markets. TikTok has a pretty big user base and it's got a viable business model. For an already entrenched market that's notable. Also: all social media is.
  • I think that you must mean "tenuous" rather than "tentative".
  • "it is just [...] for [...] narcissists" You may have hit on the real reason Trump takes issue with it. Can't let anyone out narcissise him.
  • How's that any different to fakebook?
  • Yeah. 😂 These 250 employees which aren't even 0.1% of the total MS representation of the whole mindset. Lol. These people who agree or not can suck it. They neither belong to the top 1% brass of the company nor have any significance that's why answering polls like this. If these people were so intelligent they would be sitting beside nadella or Panos. But they don't. You want best analogy? The people who gives tips on stock market on TV don't really know anything if they knew they won't be giving tips on tv they would be billionaire themselves and sip mojito on some badass exotic vacation. 😂 Tiktok is much more profitable. And don't make the same mistake of comparing tiktok with vine trend. You're forgetting the market demographics, availability of internet, speed of the internet which is available, affordability of internet, not to mention the whole new age of wanna be influencers, financial viability of a platform. First tackle financial viability they don't need to become better or have more users than FB or Twitter to be successful they would be just fine even at current level of user base. That's why MS xcloud will be successful but PS stadia is flop. Because of the existing user base or game community + having own servers unlike Sony depending on some host like amazon or Google cloud for it. Sustainability is big factor when it comes to business. It is all about who can endure longer in the battle. Tiktok is very popular because not countries like India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and many other are getting fast 4G internet and the coverage is only increasing not decreasing. In India now tiktok is banned but let me tell you what the demographic on tiktok was. Rich people who have access to internet a good video editing rig at home can post videos on youtube. But on tiktok most of the influencers weren't the rich ones. the viewers and creators alike both were middle class or lower income groups. Why? Because now internet cost so less. In last 5 years smarphone user base have doubled to 800m around 720m use internet actively. The user base is so big people don't realise right now. Still half the world is deprived of proper internet connectivity. When acquisitions like this happen companies do see the future viability and profitability if it is profitable business then MS should definitely buy it and host data on their own cloud servers. There is literally no reason for not to get into a social media business in 2020. Social media is ruthless business that's why nobody have been able to Tackle FB up until now. If MS manages to run tiktok properly then this might be the gateway to this business.
  • I bet these were the same employees that cried over the military hololens deal