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Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

New export controls on technologies that Beijing deems sensitive are threatening to derail efforts by American companies to acquire TikTok's U.S. operations from its Chinese parent company ByteDance, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Driving the news: The regulations were unveiled on Friday and prevent "technology based on data analysis for personalized information recommendation services" — which would likely apply to TikTok's AI content-recommendation engine — from being exported without a license, according to the New York Times.

  • On Saturday, the Chinese state-owned Xinhua News Agency published commentary from a trade professor and government adviser suggesting that ByteDance "seriously and cautiously" consider whether to suspend TikTok negotiations after reviewing the new rules.
  • The state-owned English-language newspaper Global Times published a similar story quoting Chinese experts as saying the restrictions could help ByteDance "prevent its core algorithms used in video-sharing app TikTok from falling into US companies' hands."

The state of play: Microsoft and Walmart have teamed up on a bid to buy TikTok ahead of a Sept. 15 deadline that the Trump administration has imposed before the Chinese-owned app is banned on national-security grounds. Oracle is also reported to be in negotiations with ByteDance.

Between the lines: "If Beijing blocks the sale of TikTok, it would effectively be calling the Trump administration’s bluff, forcing the U.S. government to actually go through with restricting the app and potentially incurring the wrath of its legions of influencers and fans," the Times notes.

Go deeper

Nov 24, 2020 - Technology

Social media companies all starting to look the same

Data: Axios research; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Snapchat on Monday launched Spotlight, a video tab within its app that, like TikTok, distributes videos based more on how popular they are than on who created them. Facebook in August launched its TikTok competitor, called Reels.

Driving the news: Snapchat's news comes days after Twitter said it would be adding "Fleets," which are basically Snapchat stories for people who tweet. (Nearly every social media app has launched some version of Stories in the past few years.)

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth-quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.