For most young people now, especially in the U.S., it is difficult to remember, or imagine, how life was without social media. The world seems to be run, or perhaps overrun, by so much information at the touch of a button or the swipe across a screen. One of the newest crazes to hit the internet is the platform known as TikTok. The app designed for dancing, lip-syncing and other forms of entertaining content that can be jammed into a one-minute video format has been a topic of discussion in the news off-and-on for quite a while now, especially after the app was faced with threats of being blocked in some countries or permanently shut down. However, most recently TikTok is making headlines because everyone wants to know the answer to this question: Is an American company buying it from its current Chinese parent company owners, ByteDance? This question is not easily answered, especially when considering the new rules set in place by the Chinese government.
On Friday, Aug. 28, the Chinese government announced official revisions in regard to guidelines surrounding selling particular types of technologies to foreign buyers such as the U.S. These revisions affect TikTok specifically due to new rules regarding processing data and recognition technology, both for text and for speech. China has a catalogue of exports including this type of information technology that is strictly banned from any exportation, and the relationship with the United States and China over these sorts of bans and intellectual property are already tense without the addition of further prohibitions. The Ministry of Commerce in China claims that these actions are in the best interest of their own national security, and it is an effort to have a more formalized system of managing their export of technological resources and goods. These new regulations make it likely that the company responsible for TikTok, ByteDance, will first need to acquire permission from the Chinese government before the sale of the social media platform to a foreign company can even be considered.
China is not the only nation that has voiced concerns about national security. President Trump and other politicians claim this as their reason for attempting to force ByteDance to sell all of Chinese operations of TikTok in the U.S. to an American company. Based on current reports, it appears that American companies and the United States government only want the sale of ByteDance’s American TikTok assets and operations. This led to TikTok filing a lawsuit against the President and his administration. Despite the app’s origin company denying national security threat allegations and the ensuing lawsuit, Walmart and Microsoft have still made offers to buy TikTok from ByteDance. So, where do deals to buy this popular app stand as of now? Will TikTok be officially banned in the United States?
The situation only gets stickier. China’s new regulations are blatantly pushing against any attempts to force ByteDance to sell their technology to an American company. Both countries are trying to force leverage over the other in this situation. How will this competition over technology affect the treatment of other China-based companies if the United States is successful in strong-arming TikTok from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce? At this time, it appears that the U.S. and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce have reached an impasse over ByteDance and the infamous TikTok social media service. Time will tell who will overcome the other in this arm-wrestling match, or if in the end they will be able to reach a reasonable compromise for both countries.