Some Republicans raise concerns that ByteDance would maintain access to information on the 100 million TikTok users in the US.
Washington: President Donald Trump said he expects to get a report Thursday about Oracle’s bid for the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok and admitted there is no legal path to letting the US Treasury get a cut of the deal — a proposition experts had criticised as unprecedented and possibly illegal.
“I’m not prepared to sign off on anything. I have to see the deal,” Trump told White House reporters Wednesday evening about Oracle’s interest in TikTok.
Some in the US have raised concerns about the deal, fearing that ByteDance Ltd., the Chinese company that owns TikTok, would maintain access to information on the 100 million TikTok users in the United States.
“It has to be 100% as far as national security is concerned,” Trump said.
He also said he opposed an arrangement reported by media outlets in which ByteDance would keep a majority stake in the company and Oracle a minority stake.
“We don’t like that. Conceptually, I can tell you I don’t like that,” Trump said.
Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg reported earlier in the day that Oracle’s proposal fell short of addressing the Trump administration’s concerns over national security, though the deal remains under discussion.
The Financial Times had earlier reported that ByteDance was to place TikTok’s global business in a new US-headquartered company with Oracle investing as a minority shareholder along with other US investors.
The TikTok saga has seen several twists, with Microsoft seen initially as the suitor before its bid was rejected.
Chinese authorities have said they would not allow ByteDance to sell the algorithms used by TikTok which are believed to hold much of the value for the popular social platform.
TikTok said in a statement that “we’ve submitted a proposal to the Treasury Department which we believe would resolve the Administration’s security concerns” and allow the app to continue to be used by 100 million people in the US.
President Trump previously said that he would ban TikTok if it wasn’t sold to an American company. In an August 6 order, Trump said TikTok “reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive,” is potentially a source for disinformation campaigns and “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”
TikTok maintains that it has not shared US user data with the Chinese government and would not do so, says it does not censor videos at the request of Chinese authorities and notes that moderators for US operations are led by a US team.
Trump said he was stunned to learn that the Treasury could not receive any payment in exchange for the US signing off on the deal.
“Amazingly, I find that you’re not allowed to do that,” Trump said. “If they’re willing to make big payments to the government they’re not allowed because ... there’s no legal path to doing that. ... How foolish can we (the United States) be?”
The Oracle arrangement, according to a person familiar with the matter who isn’t authorised to speak publicly, entrusts TikTok’s US user data to Oracle, which would oversee technical operations for TikTok in the US Oracle won’t develop code for the app, but will review it and updates to it.
Not all Republicans are on board with the Oracle deal. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a frequent critic of both China and the tech sector, called for the government to reject the Oracle partnership and instead pursue a full sale of TikTok in the US or ban the app.
“An ongoing ‘partnership’ that allows for anything other than the full emancipation of the TikTok software from potential Chinese Communist Party control is completely unacceptable, and flatly inconsistent with the President’s Executive Order of Aug. 6,” he wrote on Tuesday.
A group of six other Republican senators led by Marco Rubio of Florida on Wednesday sent a letter to the president expressing reservations about the partnership agreement with Oracle, saying that it appears to have “significant unresolved national security issues” and that a deal “must ensure that TikTok’s US operations, data and algorithms are entirely outside the control of ByteDance or any Chinese-state directed actors.”