Washington (dpa) - US President Donald Trump is serious: With a new injunction against Tiktok, he apparently wants to force the sale of the US business of the popular Chinese video app.
With the decision, which is due to take effect in 45 days, Trump forbids US citizens to do “business” with Bytedance, the app's owner. The app is a "threat" to national security, it said. The app collects large amounts of user data and could enable the Chinese Communist Party to spy on Americans, it said.
Trump recently urged that the app's US business be sold to an American company. With the injunction, he seems to be enforcing this: if the decree should not be invalidated by a court, Tiktok should no longer be available in the US in 45 days. The president also took action against the Chinese WeChat app. The procedure marked a new stage of escalation in the tense relationship with China.
The US software giant Microsoft took the position after the massive political pressure from the White House to take over the US business of the video app. The company plans to negotiate a deal with the private Chinese owner by mid-September. The Tiktok operation in Canada, Australia and New Zealand should also be part of the agreement, Microsoft said in a blog entry. Europe was not mentioned. According to Microsoft, it wants to ensure that all personal data of US citizens are transferred to the USA and only collected there.
The White House cited reports that the app has been downloaded 175 million times in the United States. Should a US company take over Tiktok's local business, the app should have a future there, especially since the decision was not directed against Tiktok itself, but against the Chinese owner.
Tiktok is experiencing rapid growth and has long been the trendiest big platform among younger people. The international video platform has hundreds of millions of users worldwide. You can upload your own clips or watch videos from others. The social network Facebook is trying to keep up with the short video format Reels on its photo platform Instagram.
The White House said Tiktok "automatically collects large amounts of data from its users," including geospatial data and searches. This data could allow China to spy on or blackmail federal government employees or service providers, it said.
Tiktok owner Bytedance has been trying to separate its international platform from the Chinese version for some time. Tiktok assures that the Chinese government has no access to user data and has never requested it. The data of US users would be stored and processed in the USA anyway, it said. In China itself there is only the censored version of the app, Douyin.
How much Microsoft would have to pay for Tiktok is so far unclear. But it should be a double-digit billion amount. The White House's order puts pressure on Bytedance. In the United States, Tiktok claims to have 100 million users, making it an extremely attractive acquisition target.
Microsoft could thus emerge from the political scramble for the app as a laughing third party - the software company does not yet have its own social media business. Under chief Satya Nadella, Microsoft was successful in addition to its core business, above all with cloud offers for companies. In the business with consumers, the company appears primarily with the Xbox game console.
With the Tiktok deal, the Windows giant would suddenly become a relevant competitor of Facebook - but would also bring completely new problems for the company. For example, Facebook has to make huge and expensive efforts to filter hate speech, baiting and other political content from the platform.
In another decree, Trump also prohibited US citizens from doing business with the Chinese social media app WeChat or its owners. The ban will also come into force in 45 days for reasons of national security, it said. The decision could lead to a ban on the app in the United States. The app operated by Tencent Holdings is extremely popular in China - but probably only used to a limited extent in the USA. The app offers users the services of a social network, messenger services and a payment service.
Trump's government has long been targeting Chinese telecom giant Huawei. Washington suspects that it is a gateway for Beijing spies. The US government is making every effort to ensure that the manufacturer is also excluded from building fast 5G mobile networks in friendly countries. The Chinese telecommunications equipment supplier ZTE had fallen out of favor in Washington in the meantime.
After a long and intense trade war, China and the United States signed a partial trade agreement in January. Since then, however, the relationship between the world's largest and second largest economies has deteriorated rapidly. The main culprit is the coronavirus pandemic that originated in China. Trump blames China for the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic. For Trump, who is applying for a second term in November, the crisis is out of time.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200807-99-74678 / 2