President Donald Trump has said he won’t object if US software giant Microsoft purchases social media app TikTok as long as some profits go to the US Treasury, reversing course on his earlier opposition to such a buyout.
Trump broke the news at a White House meeting on Monday, describing a conversation he’d had with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella the previous day.
When Microsoft confirmed Sunday that it has been in talks with TikTok’s owner – Chinese firm ByteDance – aimed at acquiring the app in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Trump supported the acquisition, but added that Microsoft would be “better off buying the whole thing.”
The president also made it clear he expected some financial gratitude in exchange for setting up the acquisition, telling the tech giant,
If you buy it…a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States, because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen.
“Right now they don’t have any rights unless we give it to them,” he told reporters, explaining the reasoning behind his demands.
Trump said that any acquisition would need to be done by September 15, when his proposed ban on the app would come into effect. If a deal can’t be reached by then, he said, TikTok would be “out of business” in the US.
TRUMP: TikTok will close down in the U.S. on September 15th if Microsoft or another American company does not buy it from ByteDance. pic.twitter.com/cnI1wuJdsT
The ban was floated last month after the US House of Representatives voted to bar TikTok from use on all government-issued phones, due to the app’s alleged connections to the Chinese government. These supposed connections have already seen TikTok banned in India, and from the phones of US military personnel.
TikTok denies any accusations of Chinese government control, yet the app does collect a worrisome amount of user data. Even when running in the background, it was discovered in June to be copying the contents of users’ clipboards – a practice it had vowed a year earlier that it would discontinue.
The crackdown on TikTok is part of the Trump administration’s wider war on Chinese technology, and was preceded by a clampdown on telecoms giant and mobile phone producer Huawei. Huawei was also labeled a security threat, with the US even attempting to persuade other countries not to use its technologies – and, in the case of the UK, succeeding.
Beijing insisted that the actions of the Trump administration were aimed only at removing a strong Chinese competitor from the US market to the benefit of its own firms.
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