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Trump Administration Imposes Deadline For TikTok To Be Sold


TikTok is on the market. President Trump says he's giving the company that owns the video-sharing app a month to sell it. Or if not, he wants TikTok banned in the U.S.


DONALD TRUMP: I set a date of around September 15. At which point, it's going to be out of business in the United States.

MARTIN: Over the weekend, the president spoke with the CEO of one potential buyer - Microsoft. To explain what's going on with the future of TikTok, we've got NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn with us this morning. Hi, Bobby.


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MARTIN: Just take a step back. Explain why President Trump is so interested in TikTok right now.

ALLYN: So Trump doesn't talk about TikTok without talking about China, and there is a reason for that. TikTok's parent company ByteDance is based in Beijing. And Trump says that means TikTok could be harvesting the private data of millions of American citizens and sharing it with the Chinese Communist Party. Now, whether that's really happening is up for debate. There's no conclusive evidence that it is. But Trump views it as a black-and-white issue. TikTok either stays Chinese-owned and will be banned, or the app is bought by an American company - like Microsoft, like you mentioned - and it can stick around.

MARTIN: So we mentioned this in the intro, that Microsoft's CEO actually sat down with President Trump over the weekend. I mean, is - the CEO of Microsoft feels it's necessary to actually vet this potential purchase with the president?

ALLYN: Yeah, because the walls have been closing in on TikTok for some time. The president has been threatening economic sanctions against TikTok. Other members of the Trump administration have been talking about other ways to basically ban TikTok from the United States completely. And Microsoft spied opportunity here. Microsoft said, well, let's see if we can acquire the American assets of TikTok. And if they do that, they need to get the blessing of the Trump administration. So I think Microsoft's CEO just wants to be 100% sure that Trump is not going to try to intervene and challenge the acquisition because that's the last thing you want when you make a huge merger like Microsoft is looking to do with TikTok.

MARTIN: So from the - from a business point of view, Bobby, would a TikTok acquisition - I mean, is that a good buy for Microsoft?

ALLYN: Yeah, it would be huge. I mean, Microsoft already is a $1.5 trillion company, right? I mean, they absolutely are a global-tech powerhouse but not really has - you know, Microsoft isn't really known for being on the leading edge of social media platform for young people. I mean, many people still, when they think of Microsoft, they think of Windows, the operating system - not exactly the hippest image in the world.

But Microsoft also owns Xbox, you know? It's one of its most successful business lines, in fact. And there's a lot of crossover between gamers and TikTok users. Not to mention, bringing on TikTok would allow Microsoft to go toe-to-toe with Facebook, which has been looking at TikTok and has been pretty envious, so envious that Facebook has announced a copycat service that sounds a lot like TikTok.

MARTIN: So in addition to all this, TikTok is also wrapped up in a big court case. Can you explain what that's all about?

ALLYN: Right. So as the focus has been on TikTok's Washington troubles, another problem has been quietly brewing in federal court. There's a massive class action lawsuit about allegedly stealing data from users. And the crux of the suit is about whether TikTok has been sending data about American children to China. The lawyers claim they have proof of this, but it does still have to be proven in court. TikTok's lawyers, though, say, yeah, the app captures and stores all sorts of data, as all apps do, but they're not giving any of it to Chinese authorities. At least that's what TikTok says.

MARTIN: NPR's Bobby Allyn for us. Thank you.

ALLYN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.