Trump Reverses Course on TikTok, Opening Door to Microsoft Bid

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A special government panel that examines national security threats, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, has extended its deadline by 45 days to allow Microsoft to explore the purchase, a person familiar with the matter said. The 45-day extension was reported earlier by Reuters.

After months of deliberations, that panel had recommended that TikTok sell its assets to an American company to curtail China’s potential influence in the United States, and Microsoft had stepped forward as a potential buyer.

But several China hawks in the Trump administration, including the White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, argued against the sale, seeing the moment as an opportunity to take more sweeping action to ban TikTok and other Chinese-run internet services like Tencent’s WeChat.

On Monday, Mr. Navarro doubled down on that approach, suggesting that Microsoft should be required to divest any business it had in China if it bought TikTok. In an interview with CNN, Mr. Navarro accused Microsoft of enabling Chinese censorship and surveillance through products like Skype and its search engine, Bing.

“This is not a white-hat company,” he said.

Mr. Trump appeared to take Mr. Navarro’s side on Friday, saying that he did not favor a sale of TikTok and that he instead planned to ban the app entirely. But after a series of calls, including from Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, Mr. Trump appeared to change his mind.

Several of Mr. Trump’s aides had warned that a ban could prompt an intense legal battle, as well as hurt the president’s popularity with younger Americans. TikTok has said 100 million Americans use it.

TikTok acquired something of an anti-Trump reputation in June, after some of its users boasted that they had registered for thousands of tickets to Mr. Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., to embarrass the campaign, but pro-Trump content on the app is widespread. Some of its most popular users are conservatives, and the hashtag #conservative has 1.9 billion views.

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