TECH ByteDance CEO: No final decision yet on offer to sell TikTok's US business

TECH

ByteDance CEO: No final decision yet on offer to sell TikTok's US business

CGTN

18:00, August 03, 2020

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Photo: A security guard stands near a thermal camera at an office of ByteDance in Beijing, China, during the COVID-19 pandemic. /CFP

"We don't agree with the decision (selling TikTok's U.S. business), because we have always adhered to protecting users' data and maintaining the platform's neutrality and transparency," said Zhang Yiming, founder and CEO of ByteDance, in an internal company letter on Monday. 

"We have not reached a final solution yet," Zhang added. 

"But considering the current international environment, we have to face the U.S. president's executive order to ban TikTok and the decision of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), meanwhile we won't give up on any possibilities," Zhang wrote in the letter.

This comes a day after Microsoft Corp said it would continue discussions to acquire popular short-video app TikTok from Chinese internet giant ByteDance and that it was aiming to conclude the negotiations by September 15. Trump also said on Sunday that he will give Microsoft and TikTok 45 days to secure a deal. 

Zhang revealed that for the past year, the company has been actively cooperating with CFIUS on its investigation into ByteDance's acquisition of Musical.ly in 2017.

"Although we have repeatedly emphasized that we are a private company, and we are willing to offer more technological solutions to eradicate their concerns, the CFIUS still demands that ByteDance must sell TikTok's U.S. business," Zhang said. 

The Trump administration suspects that because of TikTok's connection to China, the company could be collecting data in the U.S. and sharing it with the Chinese government. The company has repeatedly denied these accusations, assuring the Trump administration that their data is stored in the U.S. and offering to disclose TikTok's algorithms, moderation policies and data flows to U.S. regulators. 

Microsoft said its chief executive Satya Nadella had a conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump to address the latter's concerns over the acquisition. 

"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," Microsoft said in a statement.

Trump threatened on Friday to ban the popular app from operating in the United States. Reuters on Saturday said that ByteDance had agreed to completely divest TikTok's U.S. operations, where it would exit completely and Microsoft Corp would take over, citing sources.

According to FOX Business, officials from Microsoft Corp and executives representing TikTok have been in discussions with the White House to prevent the Trump administration from issuing a complete ban of the app. 

Later reports from the American broadcaster the NBC also confirmed the deal's going ahead, adding that acquisition is likely to close by mid-September, before the U.S.' November presidential election.

Reuters on Monday cited sources as saying that Trump has agreed to give Beijing-based ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, 45 days to negotiate a sale of popular short-video app TikTok to Microsoft Corp.

The sources also said that the negotiations between ByteDance and Microsoft will be overseen by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a U.S. government panel that has the right to block any agreement.

Plans to go global

The move to ban TikTok in the U.S. comes at a time of escalating geopolitical tensions between China and the Trump administration over a number of issues, emerging from trade disputes and later spreading to fields including technology and finance.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that Trump is days away from announcing strong action against the popular Chinese-owned video sharing app TikTok, alleging concerns over national security. 

Following his allegations, in a statement released on Sunday late night, ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, has vowed to continue its plan to go global, "despite the headwinds in the progress."

The company will stick to globalization despite difficulties including the intense international political environment and rival Facebook's plagiarism and smearing, it said in the statement. 

"We strictly abide by local laws and will actively use the rights granted to us by the law to safeguard the legal rights of the company," the company stressed. 

China's Foreign Ministry on Monday said it firmly opposed any U.S. actions against Chinese software companies. Its spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing that the U.S. violates the market economy's rules by generalizing the concept of national security and making presumptions of guilt and threatening relevant companies without any evidence.

Wang also told reporters that China hopes the U.S. can stop politicizing economic and trade issues as well as its discriminatory policies, to provide an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment.

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