All That TikTok Drama Was for Nothing
At this point, if TikTok ever is actually banned, no one will believe it. The Trump administration has cried wolf so many times—including as recently as Friday—about barring U.S. users from the Chinese-owned app that it should surprise no one that over the weekend TikTok announced that a deal with Oracle had been approved by Trump and it wasn’t going anywhere, after all.
Talks of a ban began in late July as tensions between the U.S. and China escalated. The administration accused TikTok of sharing U.S. user data with China, something TikTok has repeatedly denied and even the CIA debunked. The search for a U.S. owner began, and ultimately Oracle (and Walmart) won out over Microsoft. Except the deal Trump approved over the weekend doesn’t make Oracle the sole owner of U.S. TikTok—it’s a partnership, and ByteDance, the Chinese parent company, says they still own 80% of TikTok Global, per CNBC.
“Our plan is extensive and consistent with previous CFIUS resolutions, including working with Oracle, who will be our trusted cloud and technology provider responsible for fully securing our users' data,” Vanessa Papas, interim head of TikTok, wrote in a statement. “We are committed to protecting our users globally and providing the highest levels of security.”
This news also delayed the app store ban by another week, just another goal post that keeps moving in this saga that no longer has a clear motive other than chaos. WeChat, which was also included in Trump’s app store ban, successfully delayed its own restrictions after a judge approved the request from a group of the app’s users.
Make no mistake on TikTok -- Trump got nothing he asked for. There's no sale of the company. There's no key money. TikTok is still 80% owned by China's Bytedance. All that Trump did was funnel a 20% stake in a successful company to supporters Larry Ellison and Doug McMillon.— Shelly Banjo (@sbanjo) September 19, 2020
Meanwhile, the race to replace TikTok produced no clear competitor or even promising innovation from other platforms. Apps like Byte, Triller, and Instagram’s Reels were all in the running, but even Triller, which has been promoted by TikTok stars Griffin Johnson and Charli D’Amelio, failed to make any notable impact: Per New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz, the app is not even in the Top 200 downloaded apps on the app store, even when fear of losing TikTok was at an all-time high.
I know they’re paying huge $ for downloads rn but even w/ the TikTok ban and Charli joining when I checked earlier this week Triller wasn’t even in top 200 downloaded apps. No creators I’ve spoken to believe it to be a viable replacement (except the ones being paid by Triller)— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) September 19, 2020
While those involved and interested in the business of TikTok may have their own complex opinions and theories about the saga, little of that likely matters to the reported 100 million U.S. users on the app. Instead, as the United States spectacularly mishandled the coronavirus pandemic, the average TikTok creator spent the past few months watching as one of the few bright spots in our more-than-ever extremely online lifestyle was threatened for no clear reason.