The clock is TikToking: Trump says he doesn’t mind if Microsoft buys TikTok, as long as the deal’s done in 6 weeks

President Donald Trump has said he won’t object if US software giant Microsoft purchases social media app TikTok. Earlier, he had said he opposed such a buyout, and would ban the app in the US.

Trump broke the news at a White House meeting on Monday. One day earlier, Microsoft confirmed that it has been in talks with TikTok’s owner – Chinese firm ByteDance – aimed at acquiring the app in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Trump agreed with this acquisition, but added that Microsoft would be “better off buying the whole thing.”

The president said that any acquisition would need to be done by September 15, when his proposed ban on the app would come into effect. If a deal can’t be reached by then, he said, TikTok would be “out of business” in the US.

The ban was floated last month after the US House of Representatives voted to bar TikTok from use on all government-issued phones, due to the app’s alleged connections to the Chinese government. These supposed connections have already seen TikTok banned in India, and from the phones of US military personnel.

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(L) © Reuters / Florence Lo, (R) © Reuters / Leah Millis
Banning TikTok gives Trump cheap anti-China points but undermines his free speech chops in war with Twitter and Google

TikTok denies any accusations of Chinese government control, yet the app does collect a worrisome amount of user data. Even when running in the background, it was discovered in June to be copying the contents of users’ clipboards – a practice it had vowed a year earlier that it would discontinue.

The crackdown on TikTok is part of the Trump administration’s wider war on Chinese technology, and was preceded by a clampdown on telecoms giant and mobile phone producer Huawei. Huawei was also labeled a security threat, with the US even attempting to persuade other countries not to use its technologies – and, in the case of the UK, succeeding

Beijing insisted that the actions of the Trump administration were aimed only at removing a strong Chinese competitor from the US market to the benefit of its own firms.

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© Reuters / Dado Ruvic
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