Enterprise software kingpin Oracle may be in the running to acquire TikTok, the controversial short-form video-sharing app, from its Chinese parent ByteDance, to save its operations in the US from being shut down by president Donald Trump, according to reports in the Financial Times.
Citing people briefed about the matter, the newspaper said that Oracle is working with investors including General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital, and has already held exploratory talks with ByteDance.
The acquisition would also cover TikTok’s presence in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, although not at this point the UK. The FT’s informants said it was believed that Oracle provided a credible alternative to an existing proposal from Microsoft.
The newspaper speculated that elderly Oracle boss Larry Ellison – who has openly declared his support for Donald Tump and held fundraisers for him, much to the disgust of a great many Oracle employees, who staged a walk-out earlier in 2020 in protest – may face an easier ride in any bid to acquire TikTok than its other suitors, Microsoft and Twitter.
Trump and other China hawks in the US government said that TikTok’s operations threaten the national security, foreign policy and economy of the US, and allege that it captures “vast swathes” of information from its users, such as internet and network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories.
This, they said, threatens to allow the Chinese government access to the personal and proprietary information of TikTok’s one billion global user base (close to 200 million in the US), and track and spy on employees of the US government for espionage purposes.
They have also criticised TikTok for censoring pro-democracy content in Hong Kong, and aiding in China’s ongoing state repression of the Uyghur Muslims in its western Xinjiang region.
Meanwhile, TikTok this week launched a new website to fight its case and correct what it describes as rumours and misinformation about it. Described by TikTok as ‘The Last Sunny Corner of the Internet’, the firm said its information hub would serve as a source of truth.
TikTok said transparency was at its core, and that it was committed to both security and accountability, but it could no longer stand for the spread of misinformation about (or on) its platform.
It stressed that the TikTok app itself is not available in China – Bytedance runs a separate version called Douyin within China, and said its US user data is stored in datacentres in Virginia, with backups in Singapore, and strict controls on employee access.
It insisted that TikTok has never provided any US user data to the Chinese government and it would refuse to comply if it was asked to, and said that any insinuation to the contrary was unfounded and false.
TikTok’s global CISO, Roland Cloutier – who has previously led on cyber security at payroll and HR software firm ADP and during the 2000s at what was then EMC, said: “We’re committed to building an app that respects the privacy of our users and to being more transparent with our community… Security is a job that is never finished, but I can tell you we’ll continue to aggressively build an experience that respects and protects our community.”