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TikTok gets taken to the cleaner

Paul Brislen, Editor. 10 August 2020, 3:24 pm

The TikTok war continues apace with the US president banning US companies from working with the Chinese-owned social media player and a number of new would-be suitors coming out of the wordwork to buy the non-Chinese assets of the company.

Clearly the most pressing issue on the global agenda this month, the bite-sized video-streaming service has come under fire as part of Trump's plan to block all Chinese companies from engaging with the US market.

While telco equipment maker Huawei initially bore the brunt of US opprobrium, the administration has broadened its remit to include new measures designed to "protect America's critical telecommunications and technology infrastructure," according to the State Department release.

The Clean Network programme is designed to protect the US from "malign actors" and China's Communist Party is specifically singled out as such.

The five areas of focus are networks, apps, cloud services and submarine cable and apparently apps are so risky they're in there twice - once for the apps themselves and once for the apps' inclusion in smartphone vendor's app stores.

Trump has signed the orders calling on US companies to avoid transacting with TikTok and he has gone so far as to suggest that should TikTok be sold to a US company he should get a cut for orchestrating the deal.

While the emollients clause in US legislation may put a stop to that particular issue, a number of commercial entities have come forward expressing an interest in buying the US-based assets of TikTok - something the company seems happy to consider.

Microsoft was first out of the gate looking for a social media purchase that would give it more credence with the younger audience but it has been joined in the tyre-kicking by Twitter, a company which needs to up its game if it is to compete with the Facebook behemoth in the market.

Facebook itself is unlikely to bid (competition law would suggest any deal at that level would be blocked by US law makers) but has launched its own version of TikTok. Whether the company begins blocking TikTok from its Instagram and Facebook feeds remains to be seen.

For the kids who make up the vast bulk of TikTok's user base all this will be totally besides the point and it's likely they'll carry on regardless of ownership squabbles blissfully unaware of the dire risk to US security concerns that they pose.


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