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As Deadline Looms, Scramble on Tiktok Deal Structure

As Deadline Looms, Scramble on Tiktok Deal Structure

Friday, 18 September, 2020 - 07:00
A deal allowing TikTok to avoid a US ban remained in limbo amid negotiations over the ownership structure of the popular video app. AFP

Amid a looming deadline set by President Donald Trump, negotiators scrambled to find a new ownership structure for the popular video app TikTok that would pass muster in both the US and China.

A deal appeared to be taking shape this week that would allow Silicon Valley-based Oracle to be the US technology partner for TikTok to allay Washington's concerns that the platform could be used for Chinese espionage.

But details of the deal remained unclear. Some reports said Oracle would be a minority stakeholder in TikTok, with the Chinese parent firm ByteDance keeping a majority.

A US government national security panel was reviewing the Oracle bid while Republican lawmakers warned against accepting a deal that keeps the Chinese firm in control.

"We'll make a decision soon," Trump said Thursday, a day after saying he was undecided and still considering the national security implications of any new structure for the wildly popular app, which has an estimated 100 million users in the US and as many as one billion worldwide.

Some analysts said it appeared difficult to craft a deal that allays concerns in both countries on security and the algorithms and other key technologies used by TikTok, AFP reported.

"It seems like a zero-sum game where either China or the US gets the intellectual property and security benefits, and there's no way for both parties to share that," said Betsy Cooper, director of the Aspen Institute's Tech Policy Hub and a former Homeland Security official.

Cooper said the reported deal with Oracle hosting data as a minority shareholder "doesn't sound like it resolves the security concerns" raised by Trump and other US officials.

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