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Trump gives TikTok deal his 'blessing,' but experts caution 'foreign control issue does not go away'

Tim O'Donnell
·2 mins read

President Trump said Saturday that he has given his "blessing" to a deal that will keep the popular social media app TikTok operating in the United States, but the decision appears perplexing to some observers.

Despite Trump's approval, the deal itself is not done — the current framework consists of U.S. tech company Oracle joining up with Walmart to form a new entity called TikTok Global, for which they'd pay TikTok's Chinese parent company, ByteDance, $12 billion. The two companies plan to own a combined 20 percent of TikTok Global, while ByteDance is expected to retain most of the remaining 80 percent. Per NPR, TikTok Global will still be presented as majority-American owned since 40 percent of ByteDance is owned by U.S. investors.

The negotiations to sell TikTok were spurred by Trump's threat to ban the app in the U.S. over national security concerns as tensions between Washington and Beijing remain high. It seems that the Trump administration is satisfied those concerns will be addressed in the Oracle deal, but Chris Kelly, the former chief privacy officer at Facebook, told NPR the Chinese government will likely still have "substantial" ability to pressure ByteDance under the future framework and the interactions "could stretch into personal data pretty easily," which has been Washington's primary worry.

On a similar note, Trump previously signed an executive order in August requiring ByteDance to completely divest from U.S. TikTok operations, which likely won't be the case under the proposed deal. "They're really moving the goalposts here," a former Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States official told NPR on condition of anonymity. "ByteDance is still the biggest dog in this deal. The foreign control issue does not go away." Read more at Bloomberg and NPR.

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