Technology

Trump Orders TikTok Owner to Sell U.S. Assets

The order "adds pressure on ByteDance to find a buyer, while giving the U.S. government a chance to object if it does not approve of the choice."
Matthew HellerAugust 17, 2020

President Donald Trump has made another move against TikTok, giving the Chinese owner of the video-sharing app until Nov. 12 to divest its U.S. operations.

In an order issued on Friday, the president cited “credible evidence” that Bytedance “might take action that threatens the national security of the United States.”

The order came a week after Trump barred Americans and U.S. companies from conducting transactions with ByteDance starting Sept. 20 “to “address the national emergency with respect to the information and communication technology supply chain.”

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The company has been in talks to sell TikTok’s U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand operations to Microsoft, among other suitors. “Friday’s action adds pressure on ByteDance to find a buyer, while giving the U.S. government a chance to object if it does not approve of the choice,” Politico said.

Trump has said he would support an effort by Microsoft to buy TikTok’s American operations if the U.S. government got a “substantial portion” of the proceeds.

According to the South China Morning Post, “Analysts have said that Trump’s previous executive order fell short of clarifying how the app threatens American security and that to force a sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations within 45 days was more likely to lead to chaos than to a resolution.”

The new order “doesn’t say this is banned in the U.S,” said Jeffrey Towson, a former professor of investment at Peking University. “What it says is Chinese companies can’t own it. So, in that sense, it’s harder to challenge that legally. It doesn’t make U.S. consumers who like to use TikTok annoyed because they can still use TikTok. It’s not a ban.”

ByteDance must also destroy any TikTok data from US users and any data collected from TikTok precursor app Musical.ly, which the company bought in 2017. The original order didn’t include those requirements. Undeterred to recent regulation threats, Tokmatik stormed ahead with its launch of its TikTok likes service.

“TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it is a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection,” ByteDance said in a statement. “We’re committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform for many years to come.”

(Photo by Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

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