tiktok september 15 deadline 4x3
TikTok; Samantha Lee/Business Insider
  • The future of popular video app TikTok remains uncertain as the Trump administration threatens another ban. 
  • The US Department of Commerce said on Friday it would ban new downloads and software updates of TikTok starting September 20, and then ban TikTok completely on November 12 if no deal were reached to allay the administration’s concerns about the app’s ties to China.
  • The Treasury Department and TikTok parent ByteDance have reportedly reached a tentative agreement on Thursday for a deal that would allow Oracle and US investors to take a majority stake in TikTok.
  • No details have been made official, but reports indicate the deal is a far cry from President Donald Trump’s early demands that TikTok’s Chinese parent company sell off its US operations.
  • Here’s what we know, what’s been reported, and what questions we still have about deal negotiations between ByteDance and the US government.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

TikTok has two days to close a deal before the US government bans new downloads and software updates for its 100 million American users.

The Commerce Department issued an order on Friday detailing bans of TikTok and Chinese communication giant WeChat in two stages. First, app stores would be prohibited starting Sept. 20 from allowing distribution or updates to TikTok. After November 12, all “transactions” between US entities and TikTok would be prohibited.

The Commerce Department also said in its order that these restrictions on TikTok could be lifted if the company reaches a deal that allays Trump’s national-security concerns. WeChat would be fully banned starting Sunday, according to the order, with no apparent course for preservation.

The TikTok deal is currently reported to give database company Oracle and a string of US investors majority ownership of the app from parent company ByteDance. Oracle and TikTok confirmed submitting their joint deal to the US government for approval earlier this week, with TikTok saying it believed the deal “would resolve the administration’s security concerns.”

Oracle, best known as the leading provider of database software and a $187 billion tech titan in its own right, is the unlikely and unexpected partner the Beijing-based ByteDance has chosen to resolve the matter. But the company emerged as the winner this weekend, after early frontrunner Microsoft confirmed Sunday that its bid for TikTok was turned down.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that the US government’s review board, called CFIUS, had “tentatively agreed” on revised terms for the deal. However, CFIUS has yet to announce its decision, and the deal still needs the approval of Donald Trump and the Chinese government.

Moreover, recent questions over the deal’s terms, and whether they adequately addressed concerns of protecting Americans’ data, have caused the process to drag on.

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Here’s what’s been revealed, and what we expect to happen next.

What has been confirmed

  • TikTok and Oracle have confirmed that the companies made a deal in which Oracle is named a “trusted technology provider.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also confirmed earlier this week that ByteDance and Oracle had submitted the deal to the US government for review.
  • Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday that under the proposed deal, ByteDance committed to establish TikTok as a US-headquartered global company and create 20,000 new jobs.
  • Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday night he was “not prepared to sign off” on the proposed deal because he hadn’t been briefed yet, but said he wouldn’t support it if ByteDance had majority ownership of TikTok.
  • Although Trump pushed early on that the Treasury Department be paid a cut of whatever deal ByteDance made, the president told reporters Wednesday that he discovered “you’re not allowed to do that — you’re not allowed to accept money.”

What is reported

  • Under the deal, the global business for TikTok — which has more than two billion worldwide installs outside China — would reportedly be placed into a new entity with US headquarters, a US-based CEO and an independent board of directors. The new entity would have “independent oversight” and be managed “at arm’s length” by ByteDance, according to the Financial Times.
  • However, the Trump administration raised concerns this week about ByteDance’s continued majority ownership under the deal. Trump indicated Wednesday he was pushing for US majority ownership before signing off on a deal. Reuters reported Thursday that new revised terms would see a group of US investors taking majority ownership in the new TikTok entity. 
  • The group of US investors is reportedly led by Oracle, which may take as much as a 20% stake in TikTok, Reuters reported. Other US investors would also have minority stakes in the company — interested parties include Walmart, and ByteDance investors Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic.
  • One concern was whether TikTok would retain its renowned algorithm under the deal. The Financial Times reported that TikTok would continue to have access to the recommendation algorithm surfacing videos on users’ For You pages. This would avoid any questions over the transfer of ownership of the algorithm to a US buyer, sidestepping a thorny issue with Chinese regulators.
  • With such a large stake, Oracle would reportedly take over management and processing of TikTok’s user data, either in the US or globally — Reuters and the Financial Times report different possibilities. Oracle would also have a seat on TikTok’s new board of directors.
  • Although the deal aims to address the US government’s national-security concerns, US lawmakers are pushing for a closer look at the deal to ensure Beijing-headquartered ByteDance can’t access the data belonging to TikTok’s American users.

What we don’t know

  • We don’t know why ByteDance’s deal with Microsoft, which seemed sure for weeks, fell apart. Reuters reported that investors were unhappy with the price Microsoft offered and that it upset ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming by characterizing TikTok as a security concern that only it could fix.
  • The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US — which reviews transactions between foreign and American companies and declared last month that ByteDance had to divest its US operations — reviewed the proposed deal this week. Bloomberg reported Thursday that ByteDance, Oracle, and the US Treasury had tentatively agreed on the terms of TikTok’s bid, but the US government has yet to make any formal announcement.

What’s next

  • If CFIUS says it’s approved the deal, Donald Trump will have to sign off on the details. On Tuesday, Trump said he had “high respect” for the Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison, without elaborating.
  • The Chinese government will also have to agree to the terms before the deal is official. The Financial Times reported that Chinese officials had already shown support for the Oracle deal, which appears to let ByteDance retain significant control.
  • Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, along with another group of Republican lawmakers, have urged the committee and the president to reject the deal, arguing it is too lenient and doesn’t do enough to assuage national security concerns.
  • If the deal is rejected, it could send negotiations back to square one, with threat of a ban still looming over TikTok.

Are you an insider with insight to share? Contact this reporter at pleskin@businessinsider.com or DM @paigeleskin on Twitter.

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