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  1. Judge Carl Nichols (D.D.C) has delayed the ban. TikTok's ban has been temporarily delayed. Judge Carl Nichols (D.D.C) has granted TikTok's request for a preliminary injunction, delaying a planned ban on new downloads of the app, that was supposed to take place starting Sunday at 11.59 ET. The US Justice Department had until Friday to either delay the ban or file legal papers defending it. The DOJ filed a sealed opposition to TikTok's preliminary injunction to block the ban of the video app, but the Judge Carl Nichols has ruled in TikTok's favor. "We're pleased that the court agreed with our legal arguments and issued an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok app ban," TikTok said, in a statement sent to CNET. "We will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees. At the same time, we will also maintain our ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the President gave his preliminary approval to last weekend, into an agreement." In August President Trump signed an executive order banning "any transaction by any person" with Bytedance, citing national security concerns. A separate executive order, issued Aug. 14, ordered ByteDance to sell its US operations by Nov. 12, leading to a potential deal with Oracle, which is currently up in the air. The order to ban new downloads of TikTok had initially been issued on September 18 by the Commerce Department, and was scheduled to take place September 20. That ban was delayed until September 27 when a potential deal between Oracle and TikTok was initially announced. This successful request for a preliminary injunction delays any potential bans further. Lawyers for TikTok had argued that removing the app in the lead-up to an election, in the midst of a pandemic, would infringe on the rights of US citizens to broadcast their views. It would be "no different from the government locking the doors to a public forum," explained John Hall, a lawyer for TikTok. He called the decision to ban new downloads "arbitrary and capricious." A statement from the US Department of Commerce stated the Government would "comply with the injunction and has taken immediate steps to do so, but intends to vigorously defend the E.O. and the Secretary's implementation efforts from legal challenges." Source
  2. President Donald Trump said he might rescind his tentative blessing for a deal between Oracle Corp. and ByteDance to create a new U.S.-based TikTok service, casting doubt on the agreement as Chinese state media signaled reluctance in Beijing. Speaking in an interview on Fox News on Monday, Trump said he wouldn’t approve the deal if the Chinese company retains control of TikTok. However, he also indicated that he expected Chinese influence to be diluted by a future public offering of the new company. “They will have nothing to do with it, and if they do, we just won’t make the deal,” Trump said, referring to ByteDance, which owns TikTok. “It’s going to be controlled, totally controlled by Oracle, and I guess they’re going public and they’re buying out the rest of it -- they’re buying out a lot, and if we find that they don’t have total control then we’re not going to approve the deal.” Shortly after Trump’s comments, Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the China state-affiliated Global Times, tweeted that Beijing would likely reject the deal “because the agreement would endanger China’s national security, interests and dignity.” The Global Times is a tabloid run by the People’s Daily -- the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party. Hu’s tweets are closely watched after accurately forecasting previous moves by China’s government, though his statements at times don’t reflect official policy. ByteDance was pressured into a deal for TikTok in August, when Trump threatened to ban the app in the U.S. over national security concerns about the service’s data gathering. After Microsoft Corp. made a proposal for a full buyout, ByteDance instead turned to Oracle’s offering, in which the Chinese parent will maintain a solid majority stake. ByteDance may end up owning as much as 80% of TikTok Global, which would include the app’s operations in the U.S. and the rest of the world excluding China. On Friday, Trump said that he had approved of the deal with Oracle and WalMart Inc. “in concept.” Under the current proposal, there will be five seats on the board of TikTok Global. Walmart Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon will become a director, the retailer said in a statement. TikTok Global will likely be headquartered in Texas and will hire “at least” 25,000 people, Trump said. The valuation for TikTok has been a looming question in the wake of Washington and Beijing clashing over the negotiations. The company will seek a valuation of $60 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. TikTok Global intends to hold an initial public offering within 12 months, Oracle and Walmart said. Oracle will get full access to review TikTok’s source code and updates to make sure there are no back doors used by the company’s Chinese parent to gather data or to spy on the video-sharing app’s 100 million American users, according to people familiar with the matter. The U.S. software giant has given reassurances it can protect TikTok user data from foreign influence. Source
  3. US President Donald Trump says he's approved the agreement "in concept," according to a report. The deal would create a company called TikTok Global, and China's government would also need to sign off. President Donald Trump said Saturday that he has OK'd "in concept" a deal for Oracle to acquire the US operations of popular video app TikTok, says a Bloomberg report. Trump had earlier cited national security concerns in issuing a pair of executive orders that say TikTok will be banned in the states unless such a deal goes through. A ban on US downloads of the app is set to go into effect Sunday. The Trump administration has said it's concerned about the TikTok app because the app collects data on its US users and TikTok's parent company, ByteDance -- a Chinese firm -- could be compelled by China's communist government to share that information. TikTok has repeatedly said such concerns are baseless. On his way to a campaign rally in North Carolina, Trump told reporters that he had given the TikTok-Oracle deal "my blessing," Bloomberg reported. For the deal to be finalized, China's government would have to sign off on it, the news outlet noted, adding that Chinese officials have indicated that the government is willing to approve an agreement, so long as ByteDance doesn't have to give up the artificial intelligence algorithms behind the TikTok app. The agreement has Bytedance retaining a majority of TikTok's assets and control over the app's algorithm, and Oracle and other US investors taking minority stakes, Bloomberg said. "Oracle will get full access to review TikTok's source code and updates to make sure there are no back doors used by the company's Chinese parent to gather data or to spy on the video-sharing app's 100 million American users," Bloomberg reported, citing information from unnamed sources. On Friday, Trump told Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison that he still expects the US government to get a cash payment as part of the sale, Bloomberg reported, adding that it's unclear how that would come about. A TikTok spokesperson said in a statement that TikTok is pleased the deal "will resolve the security concerns of the US Administration and settle questions around TikTok's future in the US." "As part of this proposal, Oracle will become our trusted technology provider, responsible for hosting all US user data and securing associated computer systems to ensure US national security requirements are fully satisfied," the spokesperson said. "We are currently working with Walmart on a commercial partnership as well. Both companies will take part in a TikTok Global pre-IPO financing round in which they can take up to a 20% cumulative stake in the company. We will also maintain and expand TikTok Global's headquarters in the US, while bringing 25,000 jobs across the country." Oracle CEO Safra Catz said in a statement that Oracle "will quickly deploy, rapidly scale, and operate TikTok systems in the Oracle Cloud. We are a hundred percent confident in our ability to deliver a highly secure environment to TikTok and ensure data privacy to TikTok's American users, and users throughout the world. This greatly improved security and guaranteed privacy will enable the continued rapid growth of the TikTok user community to benefit all stakeholders." The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Source
  4. The US Commerce Department has issued a new order to block people in the US from downloading the popular video-sharing app TikTok as of September 20th, Reuters first reported Friday. The full order was published by the Department of Commerce on Friday morning. “Any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd,” the order reads, “shall be prohibited to the extent permitted under applicable law.” It is set to take effect on September 20th. Over the last few weeks, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, has been engaged in talks with US companies like Microsoft and Oracle to create a new company, TikTok Global, that would meet the Trump administration’s concerns over user data security. Earlier this month, President Trump sparked negotiations after calling for US TikTok operations to be shut down unless sold to a US company by September 15th. Microsoft has dropped out of the bidding, leaving Oracle and Walmart as the leading candidates to hold stake in the new TikTok company. Still, the administration has yet to strike a deal that meets all of its requirements. Officials told Reuters that a Commerce Department rule banning US downloads of TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps like the messaging platform WeChat could be issued as early as Friday. That rule would reportedly go into effect Sunday, September 20th, banning new downloads of both WeChat and TikTok. “We’ve already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and US government oversight of US data security,” TikTok said in a statement Friday. “We will continue to challenge the executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods.” Reuters said that the administration’s ban would bar Apple and Google from offering any of these Chinese-owned apps in their app stores for US users. The tech companies would still be allowed to offer TikTok to users outside of the US. US-based companies would not be barred from conducting business with the Chinese-owned apps, like how Walmart and Starbucks allow users to make transactions through WeChat. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Reuters Friday, “We have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.” Apple and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Verge. Source
  5. Oracle’s TikTok deal accomplishes nothing Adding a ‘trusted tech partner’ only addresses a sliver of the national security concerns Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images On Sunday night — just two days before the deadline set by Microsoft — the TikTok deal finally came through. Oracle will be taking over stewardship of TikTok’s US operations, after Chinese parent company ByteDance turned down a more ambitious bid from Microsoft. This morning, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed the deal and said it would be presented to President Trump with a recommendation later this week. But barring a complete catastrophe, TikTok will keep operating in the US. However weird the details are, TikTok’s 1,400 US employees and tens of millions of US users are breathing a sigh of relief this morning. But the last-minute sale is strange in a number of ways — for a start, it’s not a sale at all. After months of insistence that TikTok sever its US operations from Chinese ownership, we’re now settling for a vague partnership between Oracle and the US TikTok operation. It’s still unclear exactly what Oracle’s “trusted tech partner” status entails, but it’s definitively not a sale, and it’s unlikely Oracle is taking over any significant operations from the US TikTok offices. Microsoft’s version of the deal would have severed American TikTok from Europe and Asia entirely, but Oracle’s version of the deal leaves it mostly intact. US TikTok will stay the same as Korean TikTok and Nigerian TikTok; it’s just getting an extra babysitter. That makes it less of a sale and more of a glorified hosting deal. It lets Trump say he’s solved the problem but doesn’t do much else. Microsoft underlined this point in its official statement announcing it had not been chosen. “We would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting misinformation,” the company said in its statement. “We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas.” The implicit message is clear: we wanted to change TikTok to actually make it safe, and ByteDance said no. There’s no indication that Oracle’s partnership makes those changes, which makes the whole deal seem suspect. “A deal where Oracle takes over hosting without source code and significant operational changes would not address any of the legitimate concerns about TikTok,” former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos said on Twitter, “and the White House accepting such a deal would demonstrate that this exercise was pure grift.” Having Oracle take over TikTok’s US hosting only addresses a sliver of the problem. It means China can’t directly siphon user data — but it probably couldn’t have before, given the app’s US headquarters. Oracle’s trusted partner status could include some code audits, but as long as the company isn’t writing the code, it will be hard to stop ByteDance from smuggling in some tracking malware if it wants to. Oracle won’t be rewriting the TikTok algorithm or handling moderation, so it will be just as easy for ByteDance to push Chinese propaganda or censor embarrassing messages. Oracle will be a contractor rather than a subsidiary, but it’s not clear that will make them any less vulnerable to pressure or subterfuge. If you were concerned about TikTok before, there’s no obvious reason you should be less concerned now. The clear winner is Oracle, which will presumably get paid handsomely by TikTok for its trust-partnering services and for making this whole nightmare go away. An infrastructure and cloud software business, Oracle has usually been out-muscled by larger players like Microsoft and Amazon. At the same time, Oracle co-founder and chairman Larry Ellison has been an outspoken Trump supporter within Silicon Valley, hosting a fundraiser for the president at his Palm Springs compound in February, and telling Forbes in April, “I support him and I want him to do well.” Given the president’s track record, it will be hard to dismiss the concern that he’s steered a cushy contract to a political ally instead of taking the national security concerns seriously. The initial prospect of a US-focused buyout had grown more difficult in the past week after China placed export controls on algorithms like the one that powers TikTok’s For You page. Recent reports suggested ByteDance simply wasn’t interested in a sale and would prefer to have the app shut down than have the US portions cleaved off and sold. It’s hard to know if that was a real position or just a negotiating tactic, but the result is the same: China was calling Trump’s bluff. A different leader might have pushed harder for a full sale or found some compromise that addressed more of the national security concerns — but finding that the drama had turned against him, it seems like Trump simply folded his hand and moved on. It’s an anticlimactic end, but things could be worse. TikTok faced the real risk of being shut down in the US, which seems unlikely to happen now. The Treasury Department was prepared to block US transactions to ByteDance starting on September 20th (that is, next Sunday). And absent some kind of compromise, TikTok could have easily become collateral damage in Trump’s feud with China. That would have been a gross abuse of power, as I wrote last month, and it’s good we avoided it. But every time someone calls your bluff and wins, it gets a little harder to play the game. We’re still in the early days of a long fight over Chinese technology — how much we can trust it and how much we can afford not to. That fight is bigger than TikTok or Trump. Because of the TikTok fiasco, it will be harder to take a future president seriously when they raise the alarm about a piece of network hardware or a tracking cookie leaking data back across the great firewall. In this game, America’s strength is its credibility and its ability to influence allies. Both of those have taken a clear hit from the Oracle deal. Trump himself stepped away with only a minor loss — but like so many of his deals, he was playing with someone else’s money. Oracle’s TikTok deal accomplishes nothing
  6. Oracle reportedly wins deal for TikTok’s US operations as ‘trusted tech partner’ Deal comes an hour after Microsoft’s failed attempt Photo by Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images Oracle has reportedly won a deal to manage TikTok’s US cloud operations. Oracle had been rumored to be part of the bidding process to acquire TikTok, but The Wall Street Journal reports that the company has been selected as a “trusted tech partner” instead. This is different from an outright sale, and appears to suggest Oracle will be helping run TikTok’s US operations with its own cloud technologies. News of an Oracle deal comes just an hour after Microsoft revealed it was no longer acquiring TikTok after its bid was rejected by TikTok owner ByteDance. Microsoft had been pursuing a deal to buy TikTok’s operations in the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. It’s clear talks have swayed away from a full acquisition, with Oracle reportedly winning the bid to be a technology partner instead. President Trump signed an executive order August 6th blocking all transactions with ByteDance, and the order demanded an American company purchase TikTok’s US business. The EO was intended to take effect within 45 days, but the president signed a follow-up order giving ByteDance 90 days to sell or spin off TikTok in the US. That order was a result of an investigation of the company by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), which oversees foreign acquisitions of US companies for any potential security risks. Oracle has a history of collaboration with the US government, making its partnership with TikTok a strategic move amid the growing undercurrent of Chinese opposition running through the White House and Congress. Oracle reportedly wins deal for TikTok’s US operations as ‘trusted tech partner’
  7. YouTube starts rolling out its TikTok competitor, YouTube Shorts The feature will roll out in India first Just like Instagram did with Reels, YouTube is rolling out a new short-form video creator called YouTube Shorts that the company hopes will take some attention away from TikTok. Reports of YouTube’s short-form video creator tool came out several months ago, but now the company is launching an early beta beginning in India. Similar to TikTok, Shorts will let people make 15-second videos which can be set to music. Music is available via an “in-product music picker feature,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Verge. The picker “currently has 100,000s of tracks, and we’re working with music artists, labels and publishers to make more of their content available to continue expanding our catalog.” These videos will appear on the homepage in a row dedicated to Shorts, the company announced in a blog post today. An example of how Shorts will appear can be seen below. YouTube is going to try to get as many people as possible to use its new Shorts feature, and that includes new “create” icon spots that will appear prominently in the app. The “create” icon rolled out with the Shorts beta on Android, with plans to bring the icon to iOS devices soon. There is currently no estimate for when Shorts may appear in other countries, including the United States, the YouTube spokesperson said. One factor YouTube’s announcement post tries to highlight for creators is the opportunity YouTube provides. The site has more than 2 billion monthly users, noting “we want to enable the next generation of mobile creators to also grow a community on YouTube with Shorts.” “We actually have introduced stories on YouTube and we’ve actually seen our creators really engage with the stories,” CEO Susan Wojcicki told NBC News’ Dylan Byers on an episode of his podcast. “That would be an example of really short-form content. So we will definitely continue to innovate in all the different format sizes, including really short-form video.” Instagram’s team seemed to have similar goals in mind with its TikTok clone, Reels, but the immediate response to the feature hasn’t been super positive. Anecdotally, many of the videos that appear in Reels (from non-partnered influencers and brands) I see are straight re-uploads of other TikTok videos. But, arguably, Instagram was never a video entertainment-first platform; YouTube is. The company is hoping that considering people already come to YouTube for short video entertainment, Shorts will be another way to keep people on the site longer and get both existing and new creators to continue uploading. YouTube starts rolling out its TikTok competitor, YouTube Shorts
  8. NinjaTok v1.1.2.0 NinjaTok (TikTok bot) What makes NinjaTok so special? Auto-follow: Mass follow targeted TikTok users from any tag search in TikTok or import your own custom list. Auto-unfollow: Mass unfollow users with various settings, such as only those who don’t follow you back or only users followed more than X days ago. Auto-like: Mass like thousands of finely targeted and filtered videos on TikTok with the click of a button. You can also monitor your feed or any tag and like new videos as they are published. Superlike feature: Target users and like their recent videos (you can specify how many). Extremely effective method to gain more followers. Much more effective than just liking a single video! Targeting filters: Filter users by number of followers, followings, posts, likes, bio keywords, verified accounts and more. Filter videos by number of likes, comments, age and keywords. Monitoring: Monitor a tag search and automatically like new videos or follow users immediately. This ensures you are targeting only active users! Auto-schedule uploads: Automatically schedule and upload your videos from a folder on your computer. Track usage and growth: All usage data is tracked and charted. See which of your stategies are the most effective over time. Targeting options: Target users or videos from a tag search, users who commented on a particular post, your feed and your own custom lists. Multiple simultaneous actions: Follow, unfollow, like and upload simultaneously, each with their own time delay settings. Account protection: Use a random time delay setting as well as “breaks” at intervals to stay under the radar and avoid getting flagged for spamming. Proxy support: Although not strictly necessary, you can hide your IP if you feel the need. Feel free to reach out to us for recommended proxy providers. Blacklist/whitelist: Avoid unfollowing your own known friends, or following, liking, etc. certain people you would like to avoid. Import/Export ID's: Have a third-party list of users you want to follow? No problem! You can also export the usernames or video ID’s to a text file to process elsewhere. Top notch support: We strive to answer all messages within 24 hours (weekdays) and deliver regular updates to keep the software running bug-free. Multiple accounts: Perform all these actions on one account, or use multiple accounts simultaneously. >HomePage< >More Info< Trial Version: http://ninjapinner.com/download/setup_nt.exe Re-Packed Full Version by yaschir:
  9. Microsoft's acquisition of TikTok could be announced in the next couple of days [Update] Earlier today, it was reported that Kevin Mayer was stepping down from his role as CEO of short-form video platform TikTok in the midst of the conflict between it and the U.S. government. Now, a report from Julia Boorstin of CNBC claims that the reason Mayer chose to step down is that he was excluded from the negotiations to complete the sale of TikTok to an American company. Further, Boorstin's sources claim that Mayer's exit indicated that the acquisition deal could happen in the next couple of days, and that the buyer would likely be Microsoft. The Redmond company has been indicated as the most likely to go ahead with an acquisition of TikTok, and the company's share prices spiked 3% following the report. However, TikTok has yet to make a final decision on a buyer, and Oracle is still in the running for the acquisition. At one point, Walmart seemingly tried to partner with SoftBank to make an offer for TikTok, but conversations fell through since the companies didn't have a "technology backbone partner", according to CNBC. Regardless of who ends up buying TikTok, the report indicates that the transaction will be valued between $20 and $30 billion, though a specific number hasn't been decided yet. We'll have to wait for a formal announcement in the coming days. Update: In a follow-up report, Walmart has told CNBC that it's now teaming up with Microsoft for the TikTok acquisition. The retailer believes TikTok could help it reach more customers but also grow its advertising business. It's still unconfirmed who TikTok is being sold to, however. Microsoft's acquisition of TikTok could be announced in the next couple of days [Update]
  10. NinjaTok v1.1.0.1 NinjaTok (TikTok bot) What makes NinjaTok so special? Auto-follow: Mass follow targeted TikTok users from any tag search in TikTok or import your own custom list. Auto-unfollow: Mass unfollow users with various settings, such as only those who don’t follow you back or only users followed more than X days ago. Auto-like: Mass like thousands of finely targeted and filtered videos on TikTok with the click of a button. You can also monitor your feed or any tag and like new videos as they are published. Superlike feature: Target users and like their recent videos (you can specify how many). Extremely effective method to gain more followers. Much more effective than just liking a single video! Targeting filters: Filter users by number of followers, followings, posts, likes, bio keywords, verified accounts and more. Filter videos by number of likes, comments, age and keywords. Monitoring: Monitor a tag search and automatically like new videos or follow users immediately. This ensures you are targeting only active users! Auto-schedule uploads: Automatically schedule and upload your videos from a folder on your computer. Track usage and growth: All usage data is tracked and charted. See which of your stategies are the most effective over time. Targeting options: Target users or videos from a tag search, users who commented on a particular post, your feed and your own custom lists. Multiple simultaneous actions: Follow, unfollow, like and upload simultaneously, each with their own time delay settings. Account protection: Use a random time delay setting as well as “breaks” at intervals to stay under the radar and avoid getting flagged for spamming. Proxy support: Although not strictly necessary, you can hide your IP if you feel the need. Feel free to reach out to us for recommended proxy providers. Blacklist/whitelist: Avoid unfollowing your own known friends, or following, liking, etc. certain people you would like to avoid. Import/Export ID's: Have a third-party list of users you want to follow? No problem! You can also export the usernames or video ID’s to a text file to process elsewhere. Top notch support: We strive to answer all messages within 24 hours (weekdays) and deliver regular updates to keep the software running bug-free. Multiple accounts: Perform all these actions on one account, or use multiple accounts simultaneously. >HomePage< >More Info< Trial Version: http://ninjapinner.com/download/setup_nt.exe Re-Packed Full Version by yaschir:
  11. Oracle is reportedly in talks to buy TikTok’s US business Microsoft may have a competitor Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Oracle has expressed an interest in acquiring TikTok, according to the Financial Times, giving Microsoft a potential competitor in its bid to control the Chinese social video app in the US. Larry Ellison’s enterprise software giant has reportedly held preliminary talks with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance already, working with venture capital firms including General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital, and is “seriously considering” acquiring its business in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. President Trump issued an executive order on Friday ordering ByteDance to sell its US business within 90 days. The FT notes that Oracle’s billionaire co-founder Ellison is one of the few US tech executives who has been openly supportive of Trump, though it’s not clear whether Oracle would be the White House’s preferred suitor for TikTok. A deal to buy part of TikTok would be legally fraught and technically complex. Until now, Microsoft has been considered the frontrunner in the efforts to find an American buyer. The FT corroborates earlier reporting from The Wall Street Journal that said Twitter had also expressed an early interest, but there are said to have been “serious concerns” about its financial capacity for the deal. While ByteDance hasn’t named a price publicly, TikTok’s success propelled it to become the world’s most valuable startup in 2018. Oracle is reportedly in talks to buy TikTok’s US business
  12. Bill Gates calls Microsoft’s TikTok deal a poisoned chalice Microsoft’s complicated deal even has Gates wary Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has described the company’s potential TikTok deal as a poisoned chalice. In a wide-ranging interview with Wired, Gates makes it clear that Microsoft acquiring parts of TikTok won’t be easy or simple. “Who knows what’s going to happen with that deal,” says Gates. “But yes, it’s a poison[ed] chalice.” He also notes that being a big player in the social media business “is no simple game,” as Microsoft will have to contend with a whole new level of content moderation. Asked if Gates is wary of Microsoft getting into the social media game, he suggests that Facebook having some more competition is “probably a good thing” but that “having Trump kill off the only competitor, it’s pretty bizarre.” Gates seems as confused as the rest of us about how this potential TikTok deal is proceeding, especially with President Trump suggesting the US Treasury will need some type of cut from any acquisition. “I agree that the principle this is proceeding on is singly strange,” says Gates. “The cut thing, that’s doubly strange. Anyway, Microsoft will have to deal with all of that.” Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Photo by Ryan Manning / The Verge Gates’ comments come just days after Microsoft confirmed it was pursuing a deal to buy TikTok’s operations in the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Reports have also suggested Microsoft might be considering buying all of TikTok’s global operations, with the Financial Times suggesting talks around this particular deal are at the “preliminary” stage. President Trump also claimed last week that he was a day away from banning TikTok in the US, before later setting a deadline of September 15th for Microsoft to conclude its potential acquisition and avoid TikTok being banned. It’s a complicated deal that would give Microsoft a big presence in the social networking space at the risk of being part of a larger trade war between the US and China. Gates is clearly wary of the acquisition, but we’re about a month away from seeing if it becomes a reality. Bill Gates calls Microsoft’s TikTok deal a poisoned chalice
  13. The biggest problem with Microsoft’s fractured TikTok deal No one has ever split up a social network along regional lines — is it even possible? Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Microsoft has six weeks to close one of the strangest deals in tech industry history. On Sunday, the company publicly announced it was in talks with President Trump to buy portions of TikTok from its Chinese parent company ByteDance. For months, Trump has been raising national security concerns about TikTok, even threatening to ban the app, and now he’s presenting a sale to Microsoft as a last chance effort to save it. If the deal goes through, it would give Microsoft a new vantage on social networks and solve a variety of US national security concerns around TikTok’s newfound popularity. But there’s a problem at the heart of the deal that no one on either side has addressed — and it’s serious enough to doom the entire project if it can’t be resolved. Microsoft isn’t bidding for TikTok; it’s bidding for the portion of TikTok in four countries: the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. No one has ever split up a social network along regional lines, much less under threat of a national ban from the president. Peeling those four countries away from the rest of TikTok would be enormously difficult, and even if it were successful, it would leave Microsoft with an undersized and strangely regional social network, presenting significant investment and revenue challenges. Trump, ByteDance, and Microsoft have a lot to hash out over the next six weeks, but if they can’t solve that central problem, then none of it matters. And that central problem is much harder than anyone is willing to admit. In practical terms, Microsoft is probably limiting the deal to four countries because it has to. Through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), Trump has the power to force ByteDance to sell its US holdings. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are the countries most closely aligned with the US in national security matters — most notoriously, as part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network (minus the UK) — and it’s likely that they’re on this list because they’re willing to make a similar move. When the US raised similar doubts about Huawei, the UK followed America’s lead, but only under duress, and Europe still hasn’t made the leap. Given the muddled justification and Trump’s pariah status among other major democracies, this is likely as far as the US can extend its influence in this particular fight. But while the four-country approach makes sense for Trump, it’s not clear that it makes sense for Microsoft. No one has ever acquired a regional section of a social network before, and peeling away the Microsoft-owned portion of TikTok will be harder than it looks. As TikTok officials keep reminding us, the app is based in California, but the majority of its users are still in Asia or Europe. India’s TikTok ban has put a dent in those numbers, but Microsoft would still be buying less than a third of the total platform. We don’t know exactly which portions of TikTok’s operations Microsoft would get in the deal, but if the point is to sever TikTok from China, the company will have to rebuild any teams or infrastructure that are currently operated by ByteDance. In essence, TikTok will split into two apps (let’s call them MS-TikTok and BD-TikTok), with separate servers, a separate codebase, and separate users. That would impact nearly everyone who works with the app: advertisers would reach fewer users with a single ad buy, influencers would have a smaller pool to go viral in, and users would have less content to pick from. TikTok succeeds when it can show users interesting posts, and without K-Pop stans or African dance memes, it will be harder to deliver on that. Even letting users share content from one network to another — sharing a Turkish TikTok to a US account, say — would require significant engineering work, work that would only be more difficult as the two apps continued to develop on different tracks. Given the concerns about algorithmic propaganda, it’s not clear such sharing would even be allowed. Splitting the network would also be expensive. Even after the initial shock of rebuilding the ByteDance infrastructure, Microsoft will be stuck with a smaller audience and a smaller pool of revenue. Any investments into the platform — important work developing new features, say, or a new ad format — will be spread out over a much smaller pool of users, which means less money, less investment, and less growth. This is the iron law of scale, the power that let Facebook become so profitable so quickly as its user base grew. MS-TikTok would be taking that journey in reverse, assuming similar costs with far fewer users and far less revenue as a result. That new version of TikTok would be wildly less profitable, and with BD-TikTok already owning the market in the rest of the world, it’s not clear how much room there would be to scale up. That’s not the only factor in the deal, to be sure. As Tom Warren laid out yesterday, there would be lots of advantages for Microsoft in owning a social network, even a small, region-locked one. The threat of CFIUS action really is an extraordinary circumstance, and it’s possible that ByteDance will sell at fire-sale prices, making the whole thing worthwhile. There’s so much we don’t know about the deal and so much still to be determined, so it would be foolish to discount it completely. But the deal that’s been proposed relies on an unprecedented kind of corporate and technological fission. The internet is borderless by nature, and most social networks take advantage of that to run globe-spanning empires from comparatively regional headquarters. Paring the network back into national terms, with users in Korea seeing a different app from those in Hawaii, is a monumental task. It would be difficult under the best of circumstances. But doing it on a frantic six-week timetable, cheered on by a belligerent president and an ever-changing set of national security restrictions, seems downright impossible. The biggest problem with Microsoft’s fractured TikTok deal
  14. The challenges Microsoft faces in buying TikTok’s US arm Tech group has until September 15 to resolve myriad problems in securing deal. Enlarge Getty Images 91 with 62 posters participating Microsoft has said it wants to buy the US arm of TikTok, the Chinese viral short-video app that is in the crosshairs of regulators and the White House. But a deal, which is likely to run to several billion dollars, faces myriad technical and political challenges and will have to satisfy Zhang Yiming, the app’s founder, his powerful investors both in China and the west, and the Trump administration. Microsoft said it would aim to complete a deal by September 15, but in an internal letter to staff on Monday, Zhang said the talks were “preliminary” and the exact details had not been worked out. Here is what is left to be decided. How much is TikTok’s US business worth? The two sides have not agreed on a price, said one person close to the deal. How to value TikTok’s US business unit, which includes Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is tricky. TikTok has spent heavily on promotion and content in order to grow its popularity and is not profitable in the US. It also faces increasing competition, including from Facebook, which plans to launch a rival service, Instagram Reels, as early as this week. Enders Analysis, a consultancy, estimated TikTok has about 50 million daily active users in the US, giving it a larger audience than Twitter and almost as big as Snapchat. That makes TikTok a “very hot property” for Microsoft, said Jamie MacEwan, an analyst at Enders, who described TikTok’s advertising business as “nascent” and estimated that it would have $500 million of US revenues this year. The current range under discussion is between $15 billion and $30 billion, the person said, but the gap between the sides reflects the uncertain prospects for the app, as well as the forced nature of the sale. Microsoft has said it may also invite some current US investors of the video app’s Chinese owner ByteDance, such as General Atlantic and KKR, to have minority stakes. The White House is keen not to be seen as expropriating a company from one set of US owners to give it to another, said one person close to the deal. Can TikTok be carved out of ByteDance? It remains unclear exactly what Microsoft would buy and how TikTok’s US business can be separated from its global operations. Currently, TikTok shares much of its code, including the algorithms that dictate which videos are shown to users, with its Chinese sister app Douyin and Chinese engineers work on both platforms, according to employees. ByteDance has spent some time splitting the app’s back-end operations, said one project manager in Beijing, who added: “We’ll have to do it in a big rush now.” How TikTok evolves in the future, if Microsoft develops code for the US app but ByteDance continues to make code for other territories, remains a big question. Under the terms of the proposal put to the White House, Microsoft would allow TikTok to operate independently in the same way that it has done since it acquired LinkedIn in 2016, said one person familiar with TikTok’s thinking. Users would still be able to access global content—from European and Asian TikTok users—through a sharing agreement with ByteDance, the person said. Such maneuvering may put off users and lead them to switch to rival apps. “Carving it up into pieces would put a huge damper on its overall growth,” predicted Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer. Could anyone else make a rival bid? While there are rumors that another company may swoop for TikTok, Facebook, and Google would face antitrust concerns. Other potential buyers might include Apple, which has failed to make any progress into social media over the past several years, and Walt Disney, whose family-friendly brand could dovetail with the generally young and light-hearted nature of TikTok. But a move by either company would bring new exposure to the legal and reputational risks of policing a vast network of user-generated content. “Legacy media is simply unwilling strategically or unable financially to look at a transformative acquisition, with TikTok perhaps the most exciting growth story in media right now,” analysts at LightShed TMT wrote in a note on Monday. The company that might provide the best product fit with TikTok is Snap, given Snapchat’s similar young audience and often playful content. But Snap’s valuation of about $31 billion would likely leave it too small to take on a bid for TikTok alone. Will a deal fix TikTok’s political problems? The Trump administration appears split over how to treat TikTok, with several figures keen on forcing a sale to a US company, but some, including Peter Navarro, the White House trade adviser, calling for an outright ban on the app. President Donald Trump on Monday said either Microsoft or another US company would have to buy TikTok by September 15 or it would be banned. In China, Microsoft is by far the most trusted US tech company, where it has had a presence for 28 years. Its largest R&D centre outside of the US is in Beijing, and several Chinese tech founders—including ByteDance’s Mr Zhang—are Microsoft alumni. “Microsoft could be seen as a white knight,” said a former Microsoft China executive who still does business with the company. “The most important thing is to settle this quickly. If US attacks go on and on, TikTok could go down the drain if the US can rally other countries against it. If another company had purchased it, it would have inflamed more nationalism in China.” Does it make sense for Microsoft? The US group’s strategy has long been to expand into the main applications on its computing platforms—though in the consumer world, acting as the provider of back-end computing has been a more natural fit than trying to become the operator of pure consumer services. A 2007 strategic investment in Facebook failed to bring it a deeper role as a platform provider for a booming area of online activity—something it could make up for with TikTok, while also latching on to a younger generation. The software company has said owning Skype taught it how to operate mass online consumer services, and bringing another anchor tenant to its Azure cloud platform would give it a big leg up against arch-rival Amazon. It would also give it one of the richest online video repositories, a ready-made data set for training its AI algorithms. But Microsoft has often failed with pure consumer products and has a decidedly mixed record with acquisitions. The exception has been gaming, where the Xbox console and Minecraft—chief executive Satya Nadella’s first acquisition—have thrived as standalone services. But jumping into social media would put the group under a political spotlight and it would highlight a business weakness: apart from its Bing search engine, Microsoft has had little success at using advertising to monetize its online services, notably writing off more than $6 billion after one failed advertising acquisition. “Microsoft has the resources, balance sheet, and experience to create a digital advertising ecosystem while also providing other synergies such as a cloud and search offering that could be used as well,” said Youssef Squali, analyst at Truist Securities. “That said, we caution that Microsoft has not been very successful historically with deals focusing on consumers [or] advertising.” The challenges Microsoft faces in buying TikTok’s US arm
  15. Trump administration gives TikTok 45 days to sell to Microsoft or leave US [Updated] Short-form video platform beloved by teens seen as a national security threat. Enlarge / TikTok's US operations may soon be part of every cool teen's favorite code conglomerate, Microsoft. SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images 311 with 153 posters participating After weeks of rumor and speculation, the Trump administration this weekend gave TikTok's parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, 45 days to sell off the social media sensation or else stop operating in the United States—and Microsoft looks to be the buyer. Microsoft on Sunday confirmed what several media outlets had been speculating since Friday, saying it is in talks to buy TikTok's operations in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and may also invite other US investors to take minority stakes in the deal. "Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020," the company said in a corporate blog post. "During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States Government, including with the President." Specifically, the transaction would take place to allay US concerns about data being stored in China and possibly accessed by the Chinese government, the blog post said: This new structure would build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections. The operating model for the service would be built to ensure transparency to users as well as appropriate security oversight by governments in these countries. Among other measures, Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States. To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred. A national security threat? US regulators have been expressing concerns about TikTok's Chinese ownership since last year. In October, Senate leaders from both parties pushed for intelligence agencies to open an investigation of TikTok. "TikTok's terms of service and privacy policies describe how it collects data from its users and their devices, including user content and communications, IP address, location-related data, device identifiers, cookies, metadata, and other sensitive personal information," the senators wrote at the time. "While the company has stated that TikTok does not operate in China and stores US user data in the US, ByteDance is still required to adhere to the laws of China." By the time a week had passed, regulators were obliging—the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, opened a review in November. CFIUS, which is based in the Treasury Department, comprises members from several agencies that review transactions in which a foreign buyer acquires a US firm for potential national security concerns. Since 2019, CFIUS has expanded authority also to investigate certain kinds of major investments that aren't straight acquisitions as well. TikTok was formed when ByteDance bought US firm Musical.ly for roughly $1 billion in 2017 and then rebranded and relaunched it under the TikTok name. CFIUS did not review the Musical.ly deal at the time, but it has the authority to do so retroactively—as it now is. That kind of review is what led to President Donald Trump's 2018 executive order prohibiting Broadcom from purchasing rival Qualcomm (even though Qualcomm had vehemently turned down every single offer Broadcom made it). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in July that the administration was considering an outright ban on TikTok as well as potentially expanding that type of ban to other Chinese firms. "With respect to the Chinese apps on people's cell phones I can assure you the United States will get this one right," Pompeo said. "I don't want to get out in front of the president, but it's something we’re looking at." Tick... tock... Trump on Friday night said unequivocally that he wanted to ban TikTok. "As far as TikTok is concerned, we're banning them from the United States. ... I have that authority," he told reporters while on Air Force One, indicating an executive order could come as soon as Saturday. Other officials inside the administration, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, pushed for a sale instead of a ban, sources told Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke by phone with Trump on Sunday, after which the White House agreed to the 45-day sale deadline and Microsoft made its public statement about the potential deal. Update 3:23pm ET: In the hours after Ars published this story, President Trump told reporters he approved of the potential Microsoft transaction. If Nadella wants to "go ahead" with the deal, "he can try," Trump said. "We set a date, I set a date, of around September 15th, at which point it's going to be out of business in the United States. But if somebody, whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, buys it, that'll be interesting." Inexplicably, Trump also added: "More than anything else, I said 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. So if we're going to give them the rights, then it has to come into, it has to come into this country." The commission he imagines the federal government receiving from the deal seemed to be foremost on his mind. "So it'll close down on September 15th, unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it, and work out a deal, an appropriate deal, so the Treasury of the— really the Treasury, I suppose you would say, of the United States, gets a lot of money. A lot of money," Trump concluded. Although the administration can arguably require ByteDance to divest TikTok on national security grounds, Trump did not explain what legal basis or mechanism would make his proposal that the United States get a cut—a "lot of money" or otherwise—from the transaction possible. Trump administration gives TikTok 45 days to sell to Microsoft or leave US [Updated]
  16. Karlston

    Why Microsoft wants TikTok

    Why Microsoft wants TikTok Forty-five days to close the deal AtAt first glance, a Microsoft acquisition of TikTok seems a little unusual. Microsoft has spent years walking back consumer plays like the Groove Music service, the Kinect Xbox accessory, its Microsoft Band fitness device, Windows Phone, and more recently the Mixer streaming service. Microsoft has been favoring its enterprise software and services, and even Cortana has transitioned to be productivity-focused. How does a service that caters to dancing teenagers fit with Microsoft’s buttoned-up business demographic? If you dig a little deeper into Microsoft’s future ambitions, though, a move to acquire TikTok’s operations in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand could benefit many of Microsoft’s existing businesses while also setting the company up as a real competitor to YouTube and Facebook. TikTok on an iPhone. Data, data, and more data The key part of any TikTok deal will be the data and users Microsoft gains access to. This is the driving force behind concerns from the Trump administration over TikTok’s potential ties to the Chinese government and how that data might be misused. Microsoft acknowledges the data’s importance in its blog post confirming acquisition talks, noting that “Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.” This data could be used by Microsoft in a variety of ways. The software giant has long used Xbox Live to fuel parts of Microsoft Research for future software and hardware projects, and the usage data helps game developers and Microsoft better understand how people use their Xbox. Understanding how people interacted with and used the Kinect accessory for the Xbox ultimately helped Microsoft develop and improve HoloLens, too. TikTok could help correct a Microsoft blindspot and even influence how other software and services are developed inside the company. Microsoft has all the data it needs on business usage of software, but it hasn’t been successful with pure consumer services in recent years, which has left the company with a gap of insight into consumer behaviors. That’s particularly relevant when you consider that a large number of young Americans are growing up in an environment dominated by Android, iOS, and Chromebooks in classrooms. With Gmail also dominating consumer email usage and document sharing through Google Docs, it’s possible to grow up in the US without needing any Microsoft software or services. Microsoft missed the mobile revolution and has been playing catch-up ever since, but it doesn’t want to miss an entire generation of future workers. TikTok gives Microsoft a direct line to millions of youngsters using the app to watch videos and even those who use it to create content. Microsoft has tried desperately to adapt its Windows operating system to be more consumer-friendly with video creation apps, but TikTok offers an easy way for millions to create videos from their phones instead. Microsoft’s Surface Pro X. Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge Microsoft could take advantage of that direct access to TikTok users with ads for Surface, Xbox, and other products, or even as another base for its game-streaming ambitions. Google is planning to leverage YouTube to integrate its Stadia streaming service, and TikTok would give Microsoft a response with xCloud game streaming. Microsoft had been planning to use Mixer for Xbox game streaming, but the service never gained enough traction, and the company was forced to strike a deal with Facebook for xCloud integration instead. It’s not hard to imagine watching a Call of Duty video on TikTok and then being able to click and instantly play the game as it streams to your phone via Microsoft’s xCloud service. Microsoft also has broad ambitions for artificial intelligence that go beyond just the workplace. While its initial foray into AI-powered chatbots for consumers didn’t go to plan, Microsoft does need a consumer testing ground for its AI work that goes beyond Office. TikTok already utilizes AI for facial recognition with the app’s popular filters and in the recommendation engine that drives the For You feed. TikTok’s AI feed dictates exactly what you see in the app, and the algorithm improves the more people use TikTok. TikTok has also been venturing into augmented reality, with both filters and ads that utilize AR. Microsoft’s AR ambitions have been largely limited to its HoloLens hardware, Windows Mixed Reality headsets, and some experiments on mobile with Minecraft. TikTok would be another gateway into the mobile world of AR for Microsoft. A complicated acquisition Microsoft doesn’t offer any clues as to how its acquisition could directly affect TikTok features, apart from noting it “would build on the experience TikTok users currently love.” Exactly how Microsoft could operate TikTok in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is unclear. This leaves large swathes of the world, particularly across Asia and Europe, with a version of TikTok that will potentially have different features to Microsoft’s version. How Microsoft operates TikTok in the US and beyond will be key to its future success if the company is able to acquire operational control. One of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s first big acquisitions was Minecraft maker Mojang. It has been a huge success, particularly as Minecraft has continued to grow and Microsoft has largely left the Mojang studio to continue to develop the game independently. Equally, Nadella’s acquisition of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion has also been a success story for Microsoft. The company has been operating LinkedIn separately, with some clever integration points with Office where it makes sense. Microsoft has access to a giant enterprise social network to fend off competition from Google and Facebook in the workplace, and the company continues to dominate with Office as a result. Even GitHub appears to be a successful acquisition for Microsoft. The software maker has also been operating this business separately, but again, it’s a key point of data for Microsoft to understand how developers are responding to the world’s app needs. If Microsoft’s TikTok deal is successful, then it’s likely the company will also be run separately. Microsoft’s messy acquisitions of Skype and Nokia’s phone business have been lessons in how not to aggressively integrate businesses. Microsoft is also new to the world of content moderation and the associated headaches that brings, so it’s unlikely Microsoft will attempt to deeply integrate TikTok or re-brand it in any way. Acquiring TikTok in English-speaking countries also helps avoid some of the moderation complexity faced by Facebook and Twitter. Oddly, Microsoft doesn’t list TikTok’s UK operation as a target for acquisition. (The UK, US, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada are also intelligence sharing partners under the Five Eyes alliance.) Running TikTok separately could allow Microsoft to leverage its all-important data and integration points but also position TikTok as the YouTube and Facebook rival Microsoft has always wanted. Microsoft teamed up with News Corporation and NBC Universal back in 2006 to launch its Soapbox on MSN Video service. It failed to compete with YouTube and was shut down a few years later, leaving Microsoft to adopt YouTube as the primary way it shares its own videos. Microsoft also experimented with its own social network, Socl, back in 2012 before shutting down the service five years later. Microsoft always understood the potential for Facebook’s growth, after initially investing $240 million in Facebook back in 2007. TikTok is rapidly turning into the next big consumer social media space, acting as a direct competitor to Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, both in terms of scale and the features involved in sharing and commenting on videos. It’s difficult to say exactly how Microsoft’s potential TikTok takeover will progress. It’s an unusual deal for the company, particularly with the US government’s ongoing threats. Microsoft doesn’t typically confirm it’s in acquisition talks before deals are made, and the company’s odd blog post specifically thanks President Trump for his personal involvement. The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft’s blog post may have been prompted specifically by allies of the president pressuring the company to acknowledge the deal publicly. It’s a complex deal, and Microsoft is trapped in it. Owning the network could benefit the company, but if it happens, it would also benefit President Trump, who could claim to have unwound one of China’s stickiest footholds in the US tech ecosystem. And he wouldn’t be shy about highlighting his involvement. There will likely be more twists and turns in the TikTok talks in the coming weeks, but now that Microsoft has committed to finishing these discussions no later than September 15th, the clock is TikTok-ing. Why Microsoft wants TikTok
  17. Microsoft says CEO Satya Nadella has talked to Trump about buying TikTok Talks are expected to be completed by September 15th Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge In a blog post Sunday, Microsoft said it was “prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” following a conversation between its CEO Satya Nadella and President Trump. It’s the first time the company has confirmed reports it was in talks to acquire the video sharing platform. “Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. 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,” the blog post reads. It adds that the company expects to move “quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020.” The blog post also says that “the two companies have provided notice of their intent to explore 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.” It’s unclear how Microsoft would sever those countries from other areas where TikTok operates, like Europe and Africa. Microsoft also did not commit to undertaking the purchase entirely on its own, saying that the company “may invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in this purchase.” President Trump had threatened to ban TikTok in the US on Friday. Trump indicated to reporters that he was ready to sign a document to order the TikTok ban as early as Saturday, either via an executive order or emergency economic powers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the possibility of a ban as early as July 7th, saying it was “something we’re looking at.” TikTok is a subsidiary of Beijing-based ByteDance, and critics have called out its privacy practices and potential ties to the Chinese government. Pompeo also compared TikTok to Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese companies that have been designated as threats to US national security. The blog post describes the discussions as “preliminary,” but addresses the privacy concerns, saying the company would “ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States. “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.” Microsoft says CEO Satya Nadella has talked to Trump about buying TikTok
  18. Microsoft reportedly puts TikTok acquisition talks on hold The Trump administration had threatened to ban the app for weeks Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Talks between Microsoft and TikTok parent company ByteDance were paused after President Trump voiced his opposition to the deal, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. And while the deal does not appear to be dead, both parties are reportedly trying to get a handle on where the Trump administration stands, and if it plans any future action against the Chinese-based video sharing app. President Trump told reporters Friday he was planning to ban TikTok from operating in the US. “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. Bloomberg reports the president said he was ready to sign a document to order the ban as early as today, either via an executive order or emergency economic powers. “I will sign the document tomorrow,” he said on Friday night, indicating that a ban could take effect “essentially immediately.” Microsoft was in advanced talks with ByteDance prior to the president’s comments, the WSJ said. Trump’s remarks led TikTok to agree to add 10,000 jobs in the US. Whether that will still hold after the president’s comment was unclear Saturday. A deal was possible as early as Monday, according to the WSJ. Reuters reported Saturday that ByteDance had agreed to sell its American operations to prevent the Trump administration from banning it in the US, and, that Microsoft would be in charge of protecting US user data. The plan would have allowed another American company to take over TikTok in the US. The administration has threatened to ban the video-sharing app for several weeks; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on July 7th a ban was “something we’re looking at.” President Trump said Friday “we’re banning them from the United States,” but didn’t provide specifics other than he planned to take action as early as Saturday. TikTok US General Manager Vanessa Pappas said in a video on Saturday that “we’re not planning on going anywhere” and the company is “here for the long run.” TikTok is a subsidiary of Beijing-based ByteDance, and has been scrutinized for its privacy practices and potential ties to China’s government. Pompeo has compared TikTok to Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese companies the Trump administration has designated as threats to US national security. Last month, TikTok users and K-pop fans encouraged followers to buy tickets to President Trump’s rally in Tulsa but not show up, in an attempt to leave seats at the rally empty. Turnout for the rally was lower than the Trump campaign had expected. Reports on Friday suggested the Trump administration would potentially force TikTok’s Chinese owner to divest it, and several published reports indicated Microsoft was in advanced talks to acquire the company. US law doesn’t have any precedent for blocking software, the way China’s Great Firewall does. UPDATE August 1st, 4:31PM ET: Adds information that the talks between Microsoft and ByteDance appear to be paused Microsoft reportedly puts TikTok acquisition talks on hold
  19. Instagram’s TikTok competitor is coming to the US next month Just as the White House increases talks of a TikTok ban Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge Instagram plans to launch its TikTok clone in the US and more than 50 other countries within weeks, NBC News reported this morning. Instagram later confirmed to TechCrunch that the feature will launch in “early August” in the US and more. The feature, called Reels, is Instagram’s attempt to recreate the short musical video format that thrives on TikTok. Reels will let users record and edit 15-second video clips set to music, or users will be able to reuse audio from another person’s video, as is commonly done on TikTok. So far, the feature is only available in a few countries, including India and Brazil. Instagram — like its owner, Facebook — has a history of replicating popular features from other apps. Its Stories feature was taken from Snapchat, and it led to explosive growth for Instagram, seemingly at Snapchat’s expense. Seeing the rapid growth of TikTok, Instagram is likely hoping to achieve the same feat again. The launch also comes as political pressure builds against TikTok in the US. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said yesterday that the administration was looking at taking action against TikTok within “weeks,” after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo floated a potential ban earlier this month over security concerns. For now, it sounds like Instagram isn’t necessarily going all-in on Reels, though. Reels will live inside of Instagram Stories, where it’ll be one option among many when posting. And videos won’t necessarily stick around, as they do on TikTok, unless creators specifically add them to their profile, TechCrunch previously reported. It’s still unclear exactly how viewers will find Reels to watch. TechCrunch previously reported that they would live inside of the Explore tab, but NBC News said today that Instagram will add a new tab to the bottom of the screen where you’ll be able to watch them. A dedicated viewing tab could make the experience a lot more like TikTok, which throws users directly into an endlessly scrolling screen of videos. Instagram’s TikTok competitor is coming to the US next month
  20. TikTok pulls out of Hong Kong due to new security law Pompeo says US ‘certainly looking at’ banning TikTok Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge TikTok says it will stop offering its social video app in Hong Kong after the region adopted a new national security law granting expanded powers to the mainland Chinese government. “In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson tells Axios. Global tech companies operating in Hong Kong have expressed concern that the new law could force them to comply with China’s draconian censorship standards and possibly send user data to the mainland. Google, Facebook, and Twitter have already stopped processing requests for user data from the Hong Kong government. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a major Chinese internet company. But it has been at pains to differentiate the Western app from its parent and Douyin, the Chinese version of the platform. While TikTok has long argued that it never shares data with the Chinese government, the new Hong Kong law would likely have undermined the company’s case if it continued to operate in the region. TikTok continues to face scrutiny in the US and beyond. Tonight, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox that the government is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok and various other Chinese social media apps. TikTok was also banned in India last week alongside dozens of other Chinese apps amid increased tensions between the countries. TikTok pulls out of Hong Kong due to new security law
  21. NEW DELHI: The government has banned 59 Chinese applications including top social media platforms such as TikTok, Helo and WeChat in order to counter the privacy security posed by these applications. The move came amid tension with China following the June 15 clashes at Ladakh in which 20 Indian soldiers died in action and more than 70 were injured. ShareIT, UC browser and shopping app Clubfactory are among the other prominent apps which have been banned. The government has argued that the applications are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order. The government has banned these invoking its power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009, it said in a statement. A top official said that the government has considered all the aspects before taking the decision. “These apps have been there for a long time, and there are some privacy and security issues with them including risks of data going out of the country,” said the person who did not wish to be identified. The statement from the ministry of electronics and IT (MEITY) said that it has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India. “The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” it said “There have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians. It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country,” the statement added. Experts suggested that the ban on apps is a major blow to China's Digital Silk Route ambitions, eroding millions of dollars from valuation of its companies. This could also lead to more countries following India's path in acting against these Apps. "The Modi government shows its tremendous resolve and dexterity of engaging China on multiple fronts and hitting China where it hurts the most," said a party source. "This is India's first salvo to China after the border clashes, showing that India has a diverse range of retaliatory options," he added. Here is the full list of apps that have been banned: Read More: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/software/india-bans-59-chinese-apps-including-tiktok-helo-wechat/articleshow/76694814.cms https://www.ndtv.com/video/news/news/tiktok-stop-59-chinese-apps-banned-by-india-553123 https://indianexpress.com/article/india/china-apps-banned-in-india-6482079/
  22. TikTok is one of the hottest social media platforms but the CEO of Reddit had some harsh words for the popular app, calling it “fundamentally parasitic” at an event Wednesday. The comments from Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman were some of the more controversial offered up during a panel discussion with former public policy exec Elliot Schrage and former Facebook VP of Product Sam Lessin. During a brief conversation about the feature innovations of TikTok, Huffman pushed back hard on the notion that Silicon Valley startups had something to learn from the app. “Maybe I’m going to regret this, but I can’t even get to that level of thinking with them,” Huffman said. “Because I look at that app as so fundamentally parasitic, that it’s always listening, the fingerprinting technology they use is truly terrifying, and I could not bring myself to install an app like that on my phone.” “I actively tell people, ‘Don’t install that spyware on your phone,'” he later added. The comments were made in front of a large group of Silicon Valley investors and entrepreneurs gathered for a one-day conference called “Social 2030” put on by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Lessin’s VC firm Slow Ventures. The event aimed to highlight and identify trends in social apps that would be shaping the next decade of the space. Huffman’s comments critiqued how TikTok tracks the actions of its users. The social media app was a hot topic of discussion throughout the event, and while Lessin asserted that the app had made a number of notable innovations, Huffman was one of the few at the event to offer deep criticisms of the app. TechCrunch has reached out to TikTok owner ByteDance for comment. Source
  23. Researchers at Check Point uncovered 'multiple' security loopholes in one of the world's most popular mobile apps. Multiple vulnerabilities in one of the world's most popular mobile applications could have allowed attackers to manipulate user accounts and expose personal data including names, email addresses and dates of birth. Uncovered by researchers at CheckPoint, the security vulnerabilities in video-sharing and social networking app TikTok – which has been downloaded by over a billion Android and iPhone users around the world – could have put the privacy of its users at risk. While researchers can't be sure if the security loopholes have been exploited, Check Point has collaborated with TikTok to fix the vulnerabilities and ensure that they can't be used now be used by hackers. The first vulnerability researchers uncovered was in the SMS functionality of the TikTok app. To help users install the application, the website allows them to send a text message to themselves with a link to download it. However, it was found that attackers could exploit this for malicious purposes. This attack requires the attacker to know the phone number of the intended victim; this could be via already being connected to them in some way, obtaining it through social engineering or phishing, or from a stolen or public list of numbers. The attack is anonymous and doesn't reveal the attacker's identity. By editing the download url parameter, the attacker can send a spoofed SMS message containing a malicious link owned by the attacker. However, that isn't the only vulnerability researchers uncovered as they found that the TikTok Ads subdomain of the official TikTok website was vulnerable to Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks, allowing attackers to inject malicious scripts that could target users via a trusted domain. Researchers discovered it was possible to manipulate this domain when using the search functionality of the TikTok Ads help centre by entering code into the address of the search results. By combining these, it's possible for the attacker to manipulate the victim's TikTok account. They could delete videos, they could make private videos public or post their own videos. However, account manipulation isn't the only potential risk of the vulnerabilities as researchers found it to be possible to combine the SMS and XSS vulnerabilities to retrieve sensitive information not meant for public consumption, including their name, email address and date of birth. "Social media applications are highly targeted for vulnerabilities as they provide a good source of personal, private data and offer a large attack surface. Malicious actors are spending large amounts of money and time to try and penetrate these hugely popular applications – yet most users are under the assumption that they are protected by the app they are using," said Oded Vanunu, head of product vulnerability research at Check Point. However, after uncovering the vulnerabilities late last year, Check Point disclosed them to TikTok's Chinese parent company ByteDance, who worked quickly and deployed an update to fix the security loopholes. ikTok confirmed to ZDNet that they'd worked with Check Point to fix the issue. "TikTok is committed to protecting user data. Like many organizations, we encourage responsible security researchers to privately disclose zero-day vulnerabilities to us," said Luke Deshotels, security engineer for TikTok. "Before public disclosure, CheckPoint agreed that all reported issues were patched in the latest version of our app. We hope that this successful resolution will encourage future collaboration with security researchers," he added. To protect against falling victim to attacks that exploit the vulnerabilities uncovered by researchers, users should update their TikTok application to the latest version if they've not already done so. Source
  24. SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Popular video-sharing app TikTok issued a broad ban on Wednesday against “misleading information” that could cause harm to its community or the public, setting itself apart from rivals like Facebook which say that they do not want to be arbiters of truth. “We remove misinformation that could cause harm to an individual’s health or wider public safety. We also remove content distributed by disinformation campaigns,” TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, wrote in new guidelines which expand and add detail to its earlier rules. TikTok, as a relative newcomer to the social media landscape, has yet to wrestle publicly with the persistent content moderation scandals that have dogged larger and more entrenched competitors. However, the company has grown rapidly over the last year and come under scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers concerned that it may be censoring politically sensitive content, following reports it blocked videos on protests in Hong Kong. U.S. officials have also raised national security concerns about TikTok’s handling of user data, prompting reviews by the U.S. Army and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. TikTok says it stores U.S. user data outside China. According to data from research firm Sensor Tower, TikTok and its Chinese counterpart Douyin have been downloaded more than 1.5 billion times, including 680 million downloads in 2019. TikTok’s previous rules around “misleading content” appeared to focus mostly on scams, barring users from creating fake identities or posting false information to make money, but did not mention misinformation or disinformation campaigns. By contrast, the new rules explicitly ban “misinformation meant to incite fear, hate, or prejudice,” “misleading information about medical treatments,” and “content that misleads community members about elections or other civic processes.” The guidelines did not explain how TikTok would determine what constitutes “misleading” content and appeared to leave leeway for interpretation in enforcement decisions. A spokesman said the new policy would likely prompt the removal of content featuring conspiracy theories like Pizzagate, a fictitious story involving child exploitation and a supposedly Clinton-linked Washington pizzeria which went viral on social media in 2016 and prompted a man to fire an assault rifle at the pizzeria. The spokesman said TikTok would also consider a heavily edited video that attempted to make U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi seem incoherent to be misinformation. Facebook and Twitter weathered intense criticism from Democrats over the video this year after declining to take it down. On Monday, Facebook announced a new policy banning deepfakes and other manipulated media, but said the change would not result in the removal of the doctored Pelosi video. Source
  25. ByteDance, the owner behind TikTok, has been secretly building a deepfake feature that would allow users to insert their faces into videos they’re not actually in, according to a TechCrunch report. While the feature is not live yet, it would appear that TikTok and Douyin—TikTok’s sister app in China—both feature code for taking multiangle biometric scans of a user’s face. The scan can then be inserted in select videos before being shared. The news sounds concerning, especially when you consider how manipulated media can potentially be misused to spread misinformation. See: That faked viral video of Nancy Pelosi appearing to slur her words. TikTok has also been the subject of scrutiny as of late, with accusations it collected children’s data, military bans, and national security concerns. The code itself was discovered by Watchful.ai, an Israeli startup. Their findings indicate that ByteDance is hyper-aware that a potential deepfake feature might not be received too well. As a result, it appears ByteDance has gone through the trouble to build in some safeguards. For instance, users must scan their face from multiple angles to create the deepfakes—a measure which doubles as identity verification and a preventive measure from someone using a single photo to create manipulated media without consent. Users can also only insert themselves into a limited number of videos that ByteDance claims to have rights to. Lastly, when it comes to sharing, the generated videos will feature watermarks to indicate the content isn’t real. Watchful.ai also found unpublished updates to TikTok and Douyin’s terms of service with regard to the deepfake feature. It reiterates that “real identity verification” is required and that uploaded photos can’t be used. Also encouraging is the fact the feature can’t be used by minors. Neither TikTok nor Douyin seems keen to own up to the feature existing, however. Spokespersons from both apps denied aspects of Watchful.ai’s findings to TechCrunch. Specifically, TikTok denied it was an upcoming feature but also seemingly inadvertently acknowledged the code existed by stating “The inactive code fragments are being removed to eliminate any confusion.” That disconnect between the two apps tracks with recent reports that ByteDance is doing its best to isolate TikTok from the rest of its Chinese operations over espionage concerns. In an email to Gizmodo, a TikTok spokesperson said, “TikTok is not experimenting with this feature, has never offered this feature, and has no intention to offer such a feature in the future.” It’s hard to say whether the deepfake feature will ever see the light of day in the U.S. It’s possible that it could be a China-only release, or that ByteDance might find launching a deepfake feature isn’t worth the potential blowback. Even so, ByteDance isn’t the only social media app to dabble with media manipulation via filters or face swapping. Snapchat, for one, has had a face swap feature for years now. Chinese app Zao took it a step further, allowing users to transpose their faces onto famous actors in short clips. The problem is the more sophisticated these deepfake tools get, the murkier it gets with regard to IP, misinformation, and potential abuse. Whether any other apps attempt to incorporate more extensive deepfake tools into their platforms remains to be seen. Update, 01/03/2020, 1:46pm: Added comment from TikTok spokesperson Source
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