Aug 2, 2020 - Technology

What a Microsoft deal to buy TikTok would look like

An illustration of money signs in the Tik Tok font.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump, who said Friday night that he'll ban TikTok, may allow Microsoft to buy the app's U.S. operations if there's "complete separation" from the original Beijing-based company, Republican sources tell Axios.

What's new: Conversations with Republicans over the weekend suggest a possible blueprint for making the proposed Microsoft deal palatable to the White House.

  • Microsoft promises a complete break from the Chinese parent company, ByteDance — not just data and servers, but also software.
  • What’s essential is there can be no lingering connection of any kind to ByteDance or non-U.S. TikTok.

Trump "has a deal on his desk" whereby Microsoft would lead an acquisition of 100% of the U.S. operations of TikTok, Axios' Dan Primack reported yesterday.

  • Microsoft seems to believe total separation from ByteDance is attainable.
  • Microsoft has the technical know-how/capabilities, money and global government relationships to pull this off.

Context: Presidents normally can't just order a ban on individual companies. But TikTok's foreign ownership gives the Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States broad authority over it.

The bottom line: Look for the above formula to be the minimum.

  • People who have discussed the issue with Trump think he'd be fine with a simple ban.

Primack's thought bubble: Trump likely has a binary choice on TikTok: Shut it down, thus risking the ire of 100 million U.S. users just months from an election, or let Microsoft buy it.

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