Microsoft announced on Sunday it would continue talks to acquire the US operations of popular video-sharing app TikTok, after meeting with President Donald Trump who seemingly backed off his earlier threats to ban the Chinese-owned platform.
“Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the US,” the company said in a statement, acknowledging the “importance of addressing the president’s concerns” over national security.
Microsoft added that it would continue negotiations with ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, with the intention of “completing these discussions no later than September 15”.
The statement came after Trump on Friday said he would ban the app, which is especially popular with young audiences who create and watch its short-form videos and has an estimated one billion users worldwide.
TikTok should be sold or blocked in the US, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told ABC earlier on Sunday, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News the president would “take action in the coming days concerning a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party”.
TikTok denies it could be a tool for Chinese intelligence, with its US general manager Vanessa Pappas declaring on Saturday: “We’re not planning on going anywhere.”
“The US would be the biggest loser if it banned TikTok,” Daniel Castro, vice-president of the think tank Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said on Saturday.
“All of its data centres are outside of China, and there is no evidence that it presents a national security threat.”
Trump said he would use an executive order to ban TikTok, or the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a law granting the president powers to regulate international trade in the face of an “unusual and extraordinary threat” from abroad to US foreign policy, national security or the economy.
His threat has caused great concern for US TikTok users, particularly content creators who make money on the platform.
Many of them have posted links to their Instagram or YouTube accounts so as not to lose followers if the platform is ultimately blocked.
In its statement, Microsoft said it plans to “build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections”.
Buying TikTok would give Microsoft a chance to break into the social networking market.
The IT group currently owns the professional networking platform LinkedIn, and Teams, an internal messaging service for companies.