The Chinese government will likely have to approve the sale of TikTok to Microsoft, Oracle, Twitter, Google, or whoever wins it. On Friday, the list of types of technologies whose sale to foreign entities is prohibited or at least subject to government approval was amended for the first time in 12 years. It is a clear response to the hostile attitude held by the United States in the last period.
The Chinese government has added 23 new types of technologies to the special list: one of these items describes interactive services with push technology that process personal information based on data analysis and artificial intelligence. The trump card of TikTok is, according to many, precisely the algorithm that keeps the user glued to the screen by suggesting videos based on his personal preferences.
ByteDance said it has learned of the law update and is analyzing it carefully to see how to proceed. The government approval process could take up to 30 days – and of course the outcome is not a foregone conclusion. Indeed, it could be argued that China did so precisely to prevent a possible deal.
TikTok is the social of the moment, especially among teenagers. But it originated in China, and as it happened with Huawei, the Donald Trump administration decided it poses a threat to national security. There is a possibility, he says, that American data will be intercepted by the Chinese government – in short, the risk of espionage. Trump thus gave ByteDance, the developer of TikTok, an ultimatum: either sell part of your operations (those related to the US market, trivially) to an American company or you will be inaccessible in America. ByteDance sued the government claiming that Trump's request is illegal, but in the meantime it is preparing for the worst (i.e. the closure of the American division). Meanwhile, American and veteran Disney CEO Kevin Mayer stepped down as CEO after just two months.