Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
In a blog post Sunday, Microsoft said it was “prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” following a conversation between its CEO Satya Nadella and President Trump. It’s the first time the company has confirmed reports it was in talks to acquire the video sharing platform.
“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” the blog post reads. It adds that the company expects to move “quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020.”
The blog post also says that “the two companies have provided notice of their intent to explore a preliminary proposal that would involve a purchase of the TikTok service in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and would result in Microsoft owning and operating TikTok in these markets. Microsoft may invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in this purchase.”
President Trump had threatened to ban TikTok in the US. Trump indicated to reporters on Friday that he was ready to sign a document to order the TikTok ban as early as Saturday, either via an executive order or emergency economic powers.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the possibility of a ban on July 7th, saying it was “something we’re looking at.” TikTok is a subsidiary of Beijing-based ByteDance, and critics have called out its privacy practices and potential ties to the Chinese government. Pompeo also compared TikTok to Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese companies that have been designated as threats to US national security.
The blog post describes the discussions as “preliminary,” but addresses the privacy concerns, saying the company would “ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States. To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred.”