What in the World is Going on with Trump and TikTok?

I am being serious here—what in the world is going on with Trump and TikTok? I called Trump’s ban of TikTok 8 months ago, but it is not like we all didn’t see this coming.

Michael Cholod on Twitter

Trump Campaign launched online ads urging supporters to sign a ‘Petition’ to ban TikTok and TikTok responded in the form of a press release by Kevin Mayer (the US-based CEO of TikTok) offering royalty payments for influencers as well as an extraordinary offer to open source its algorithm and allow the U.S. government (and anyone else) to check that it was secure and not sending data to Beijing.

Did that satisfy Trump? Not at all.

TikTok: Trump says he will ban Chinese video App in the US

It is unbelievable that an international social media company with over 1 billion subscribers should be forced to make public acts of contrition just because it ‘might’ be connected to the government in Beijing. I don’t recall hearing any of the big U.S. tech CEOs offering to pay royalties to their subscribers last week when they were all testifying before Congress about “alleged political bias, their effect on U.S. democracy and their role in China.”

So Here We Are

In short, Trump’s threat is—TikTok has to be sold to a U.S. company or it will be banned. The blackmail has been all over the news and everybody seems to be okay with it because TikTok’s parent ByteDance is from China. So, does that mean that China should have the right to force an American company to sell itself to a Chinese competitor? Or does Hypocrisy go hand in hand with Autocracy? I think we know the answer.

Microsoft is rumoured to be interested in purchasing TikTok but only after a phone call between CEO Satya Nadella and the PresidentSeriously!? With COVID-19 spreading rapidly across the U.S. (160,000 dead, so far), unaddressed systemic racism, and an economy in shambles with 18 million unemployed—it’s hard to believe that the President of the United States has time to talk on the phone with the CEO of Microsoft about a social media company.

This whole TikTok debacle is just a smokescreen intended to cover up the bare unmitigated disaster that is the Trump presidency. I just want to know why Microsoft is playing along? Makes me wonder what Trump said to Nadella on that call?  Did he threaten Microsoft with an antitrust investigation by Executive Order if they didn’t help him keep everyone distracted with TikTok until the September 15th deadline for a deal? That would be the smart move for a desperate Trump to make.

Even in desperation, Trump is always focused on what’s important, getting a cut of the deal—Donald Trump: “The United States should get a very large percentage of that price, because we’re making it possible,” Mr Trump said.

Part of me wonders if Nadella didn’t leave us a clue in Microsoft’s announcement that they were indeed considering buying TikTok. Buying all of TikTok would make sense and give Microsoft an instant leadership position in Social Media that it has never been able to build itself but buying TikTok only in The U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is a completely ridiculous idea, not to mention a technical impossibility. Is this Nadella leaving a hint out in the open that he was threatened into making a play for TikTok just to keep the headline mill grinding?

This deal makes no sense for anyone but Donald Trump. He is becoming increasingly desperate—his Presidential campaign only has 90 days left to find a way to win the White House. So here’s what to expect—TikTok will be banned in the U.S. on September 15th and the social media cold war is going to get way colder between now and November 3rd.

Be sure to check out our double podcast from a few weeks ago about TikTok where I speculated that TikTok was furiously looking to find a way to do a public offering in the U.S. to prove its independence from Beijing. Since this saga is far from over, we recorded a Part 3 this week—it will be available August 13th.

The Decentralists