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Microsoft in talks to buy TikTok after Trump threatens to ban the app in the US

Microsoft said in a blog post that it was prepared to continue discussions to explore the purchase of TikTok in the United States. This follows a conversation between its chief executive officer Satya Nadella and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Redmond-based company said it plans to move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks. Microsoft said in its post that it “is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.”  

TikTok is a subsidiary of Beijing-based company ByteDance which has been called out by critics for its shady privacy practices and potential ties to the Communist government.

According to a Reuters report, Trump has agreed to give ByteDance 45 days to negotiate the sale with Microsoft. That puts the deadline at 17 September though Microsoft in its blog post said it plans to complete those discussions by 15 September 2020 latest.

The blog post also stated that the two companies are exploring “a preliminary proposal that would involve a purchase of the TikTok service in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and would result in Microsoft owning and operating TikTok in these markets.”

However, it was not clear how Microsoft would sever those markets from other countries TikTok operates in, particularly those in Europe and Africa. There is nothing mentioned about how the sale would affect markets in Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific. Microsoft did not comment as to whether it was undertaking the purchase entirely on its own but it “may invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in this purchase.”

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Microsoft’s blog posts describe the current discussions as preliminary for now but it plans to address privacy concerns raised in the past and ensured that the private data of TikTok’s American users remain within the country.

“To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States,” the post continues, “Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred.”

Last Friday, Trump vowed to ban the popular short-form video app TikTok by signing an executive order as early as Saturday. Trump and his officials have long cited TikTok as a threat to US national security. The United States Army even blocked TikTok back from being installed on military-issued smartphones in January.

Reuters reported that Trump changed his mind following advised from his advisers and many in the Republican party that banning the app would alienate young users ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.

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