The ByteDance owned social media mega-platform will partner with U.S. company Oracle in compliance with the U.S. government’s request.
By Marissa Lee.
News has been circulating since early July about the possible ban of social media app TikTok in the United States, after data and safety concerns arose regarding the app’s privacy permissions. The platform, which is home to the mysteriously never-ending ‘For You’ page and the claim-to-fame of many young internet stars, was banned in India earlier this year. Upon hearing of this, the U.S. government made it swiftly and abundantly clear that TikTok is either to be sold or be banned from use in the U.S.
TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance, likely cognizant of the gravity of losing their U.S. user base, quickly complied. The app swiftly became the subject of a bidding war between international tech giants, including Microsoft and Oracle, the latter emerging victorious. The app itself is something of an enigma; while it has been referred to as the successor of Vine, a video-sharing app majorly popular between 2014 and 2017, TikTok’s numbers far surpass those of Vine. Garnering over 315 million downloads in the first three months of this year, TikTok boasts more quarterly downloads than any other app in history, according to analytics company Sensor Tower. With an app as highly frequented as TikTok, any small change will be noticed by users, which makes the nature of this new acquisition that much more interesting.
It is still unclear what the transition of TikTok’s ownership will mean for the app; seeing that the U.S. government’s main concerns consisted of privacy and data breaching (allegations which ByteDance vehemently denied), amendments to the app’s User Privacy Agreement will likely be made.
“The focus for ByteDance and Oracle will be on oversight, transparency and how they structure it for Americans involved and the information they have on Americans,” said James Lewis, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. He added that an “intermediary entity” could be created to examine ByteDance’s relationship with TikTok.
In recent developments in the saga, the president briefly threatened to ban the app for the second time, before giving his blessing to a deal that would give Oracle and Walmart a combined 20% stake in a new company called TikTok Global. This new merger would be headquartered in the U.S. and be mediated by a group of five board members, four of which are American. The point of this operation quickly becomes muddled with confusion when we realize that ByteDance will still own 80% of TikTok Global, not to mention the incorporation of a “5 billion dollar American education fund” that the president casually mentioned over the weekend, with no evidence or past mention to support it.
This tête-à-tête between the world’s supernations will likely not end here. Given that this TikTok tussle has been ongoing since June under the guise of an ‘emergent and timely crisis,’ only time will tell what will actually become of the app and its supposed acquisition.