Biden Team Shelves Plan To Force TikTok Sale

In this file photo illustration taken on August 03, 2020, the social media application logo, TikTok is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on an US flag as the background in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo illustration taken on August 03, 2020, the social media application logo, TikTok is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on an US flag as the background in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

 

A plan to force the sale of TikTok to American investors has been put on hold as the administration of President Joe Biden reviews the security risks of the popular Chinese-owned video app, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The Journal, citing unnamed sources, said the Biden White House had indefinitely shelved the plan to require the sale of TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, to US tech giant Oracle with Walmart as a retail partner.

The plan by former president Donald Trump was driven by concerns that TikTok and other Chinese online services posed security risks because of their ties to the Beijing government.

The Journal said the new administration is in the midst of a review of data security and ways to prevent the information TikTok collects on American users from being accessed by the Chinese government, but that there would be no imminent move to force the sale.

The White House did not directly address the report, but spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “It’s not accurate to suggest that there is a new proactive step by the Biden White House.”

Psaki added that there is a “rigorous” review of data security of TikTok by an interagency government panel, with no timetable set.

“I will note broadly speaking that we are comprehensively evaluating the risks… to US data including from TikTok and will address them in a decisive and effective fashion,” she said.

A Trump administration move to ban downloads of TikTok had been stalled amid legal challenges.

TikTok, the wildly popular app with an estimated 100 million US users, has repeatedly defended itself against allegations of data transfers to the Chinese government, saying it stores user information on servers in the United States and Singapore.

A tentative deal unveiled by the Trump administration would make Silicon Valley giant Oracle the technology partner for TikTok and a stakeholder in a new entity to be known as TikTok Global.

 

Italy Probes ‘TikTok Challenge’ Death Of 10-Year-Old Girl

tik-tok
This illustration photo taken on June 29, 2020 shows a person using the video-sharing app TikTok on a smartphone in New Delhi.
Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP

 

Italian prosecutors have opened a probe into the accidental death of a 10-year-old girl who allegedly took part in a “blackout challenge” on the video-sharing network TikTok.

The girl died in a Palermo hospital after being discovered Wednesday by her five-year-old sister in her family bathroom with her cellphone, which was seized by police.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, said Friday it had not managed to identify any content on its site that could have encouraged the girl to participate in any such challenge, but was helping the authorities in the probe over possible “incitement to suicide”.

“The safety of the TikTok community is our absolute priority, for this motive we do not allow any content that encourages, promotes or glorifies behaviour that could be dangerous,” a TikTok spokesman said.

Medical experts have warned about the danger of the challenge being taken up by some young people, who refer to it as “scarfing” or “the choking game” in which restricted oxygen to the brain results in a high.

The girls’ parents told La Repubblica newspaper that another daughter explained that her sister “was playing the blackout game”.

“We didn’t know anything,” the girl’s father told the paper.

“We didn’t know she was participating in this game. We knew that (our daughter) went on TikTok for dances, to look at videos. How could I imagine this atrocity?” he said.

Italy’s data protection agency filed a lawsuit against TikTok in December, alleging a “lack of attention to the protection of minors” and criticising the ease with which very young children could sign up to the video app.

TikTok, which went global in 2018, has built its rapid success on its parodies, messages and short dance or comedy video performances set against popular music — along with an algorithm that determines which content is most likely to interest each user.

The death of the girl provoked strong reactions in Italy and calls for better regulation of social networks.

“Social networks can’t become a jungle where anything is allowed,” said Licia Ronzulli, president of Italy’s parliamentary commission on child protection.

TikTok Owner ByteDance Launches E-Payment Service

In this file photo illustration taken on November 21, 2019, the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok is displayed on a tablet screen in Paris.  (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

 

TikTok owner ByteDance has begun rolling out an electronic payment service connected to Douyin, the Chinese version of the popular short video app, the tech giant said Tuesday.

Douyin Pay, which functions similarly to reigning Chinese electronic wallets WeChat Pay and Alipay, aims to “supplement existing major payment options, and to ultimately enhance user experience,” ByteDance told AFP.

The move sees the tech giant wade into China’s lucrative market for electronic payment services, which are used by hundreds of millions of consumers for everything from street food to fast fashion and online purchases.

Users of the app will be able to connect bank accounts to the service, which can then be used to pay for products promoted by video influencers as well as to tip content makers.

ByteDance said it would gradually roll out the function to users.

Douyin, which listed over 600 million daily active users last year, has quickly grown from its short video roots to include livestreaming and e-commerce.

Livestream shopping is a nearly $70 billion industry in China, attracting influencers who scour markets and malls for items to peddle to live audiences via social media.

Court Acquits Tiktok Influencers In Egypt

Logo of a court gavel

 

An Egyptian appeals court on Tuesday acquitted two young women imprisoned for “attacking society’s values” over videos they published on TikTok, a court official said.

“The court of appeal accepted the appeal filed by Haneen Hossam and Mawada Al-Adham against their imprisonment… on charges of incitement to debauchery and attacking society’s values,” the official said, asking not to be named.

The women had been sentenced to two years in prison in July 2020 for “breaching public morals”.

Hossam had been arrested in April after posting a video on TikTok, telling her 1.3 million subscribers that girls could work with her for money.

She was accused of “inciting debauchery”, “attacking public morals” and “human trafficking”.

Al-Adham, who has some two million Instagram followers, was also arrested in May after publishing satirical videos.

They are among a dozen “influencers” arrested in 2020 for “breaching public morals” in the conservative country.

Trump Administration Appeals Court Ruling Blocking US TikTok Ban

This combination of pictures created on August 01, 2020 shows the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok displayed on a tablet screen in Paris, and US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 30, 2020. JIM WATSON, Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

The Trump administration on Monday appealed a federal court ruling which allows TikTok to keep operating in the United States despite a move to block the popular social media application on national security grounds.

The Justice Department filed the appeal seeking to enforce a ban on TikTok by President Donald Trump, who has argued that the app’s Chinese parent company may use TikTok for espionage and to spread disinformation.

The filing did not include arguments for enforcing the ban, which had been rejected earlier this month by US District Judge Carl Nichols and in a parallel case filed in Pennsylvania.

READ ALSO: Telegram Messaging App To Launch Pay-For Services In 2021

Nichols said TikTok’s lawyers had demonstrated that the Commerce Department likely overstepped its authority by seeking to ban the popular social media app and “acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by failing to consider obvious alternatives.”

The White House claims TikTok is a national security risk because of potential links to the Beijing government through its Chinese owner ByteDance.

Trump’s order said the action was necessary to “protect our national security” and claimed the personal data of TikTok users could be used by Beijing.

TikTok has repeatedly defended itself against allegations of data transfers to the Chinese government, saying it stores user information on servers in the United States and Singapore.

TikTok has a further fight on its hands over an August 14 executive order from Trump to force ByteDance to sell its US operations to an American buyer.

AFP

Snapchat Challenges TikTok With Curated Video Feed

This handout picture released on November 23, 2020 by Snapchat shows Snapchat’s latest feature called “Spotlight”.  (Photo by Handout / Snap Inc. / AFP)

 

Snapchat on Monday unveiled a new curated short-form video feed in a stepped up challenge to social media rivals like TikTok.

The new format called Spotlight will allow Snapchatters to see content from influencers and other members of the network popular with young smartphone users.

Spotlight is aimed at broadening the connections among Snapchat users by enabling anyone to create a video that gets distributed on the platform.

It aims to encourage more users to create short-form video “snaps” which can be embellished with filters and augmented reality effects.

Parent firm Snap describes Spotlight as a “new consumption experience” for the social platform with an estimated 249 million active users at the end of September.

The company said the new offering could enable anyone to have their videos viewed by millions of users, and potentially earn money from them.

Snap said that all videos on Spotlight will be reviewed by human moderators before being shown on the platform — in contrast with rivals which use automated systems and in many cases respond to inappropriate content after the fact.

Another difference will be the lack of public comments on Spotlight, eliminating the need for moderation of abusive or unwelcome content.

Spotlight aims to become a “personalized” feed which will be curated by algorithm based on users’ viewing habits — a move following the lead of TikTok which has seen sizzling growth in recent months.

READ ALSO: UK Vaccine News Gives Hope As US Plans Mass Rollout

The launch comes amid increasing competition among social networks and rivals copying Snapchat’s disappearing messages.

Facebook’s core social network has been losing ground among younger audiences to rivals like Snapchat and TikTok, even as Facebook-owned Instagram continues to grow in that demographic group.

A Piper Jaffay survey of US teens last month showed Snapchat is their favorite social media platform, and that TikTok overtook Instagram for second place.

AFP

US Delays Enforcement Of TikTok Ban

In this file photo illustration taken on August 03, 2020, the social media application logo, TikTok is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on an US flag as the background in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo illustration taken on August 03, 2020, the social media application logo, TikTok is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on an US flag as the background in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

The US government announced Thursday it would delay enforcement of a ban on TikTok, saying it would comply with a court order in favor of the Chinese-owned social media sensation.

The Trump administration has insisted on the need to ban the fast-growing app, saying it has links to the Chinese government through its parent company ByteDance, and that user data could be obtained by Beijing.

The hit short-form video app — which has some 100 million users in the US — was given a reprieve after the Commerce Department said it was holding off on banning it owing to an injunction by a federal judge issued on October 30.

“The department is complying with the terms of this order,” it said in a statement, adding that the ban “will not go into effect pending further legal developments.”

The government has launched an appeal against the judge’s decision in the case, which was brought by TikTok influencers.

The White House has said TikTok must become a US firm controlled by American investors to avert a ban.

But any plan would likely need approval from Beijing, which has balked at giving up control of its social media star.

China’s commerce ministry published new rules in August that added “civilian use” to a list of technologies that are restricted for export, which could make it more difficult for ByteDance to sell TikTok, which features clips of everything from dance routines to politics.

In a statement on the reprieve, TikTok said: “(We) look forward to reaching a resolution that addresses their security concerns, even as we disagree with them.”

ByteDance and TikTok have proposed creating a new company with IT firm Oracle as a technology partner and retail giant Walmart as a business partner, but no deal has been confirmed.

ByteDance had been given until Thursday to restructure ownership of the app in the United States to address national security concerns, but it filed a petition in a Washington court this week asking for a delay.

The company said in a Tuesday statement that it had asked the government for a 30-day extension because of “continual new requests and no clarity on whether our proposed solutions would be accepted,” but it was not granted.

A separate case brought by TikTok is pending in another Washington court, which last month blocked the US government from enforcing a ban on new downloads of the app.

Donald Trump and his aides have claimed TikTok and ByteDance can be used to collect data on Americans for Chinese espionage, a claim they deny.

 

AFP

US Won’t Enforce TikTok Ban Following Court Ruling – Report

In this file photo illustration taken on November 21, 2019, the logo of the social media video-sharing app Tiktok is displayed on a tablet screen in Paris.  (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP).

 

The US government has decided against enforcing its ban on Chinese-owned social media sensation TikTok to comply with a federal court ruling issued in the national security case, a media report said Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal reported the US Commerce Department had decided to hold off on enforcing a Trump administration order to ban the video-sharing app owned by Chinese-based ByteDance.

The move comes after a federal court in Pennsylvania blocked the Trump administration from carrying out the ban, which had been ordered by the White House based on claims the app posed a security threat due to the company’s links to Beijing.

According to the report, the Commerce Department said the shutdown order won’t go into effect “pending further legal developments.”

Other court cases are also pending on the matter.

ByteDance had been given until Thursday to restructure ownership of the app in the United States to meet national security concerns, but it filed a petition in a Washington court this week asking for a delay.

The company said in a Tuesday statement that it had asked the government for a 30-day extension because of “continual new requests and no clarity on whether our proposed solutions would be accepted,” but it was not granted.

The Trump administration has been seeking to transfer ownership of TikTok to an American business to allay security concerns, but no deal has been finalized.

AFP

Chinese Vlogger Dies After Being Set On Fire By Ex

Chinese vlogger, 30, dies in agony 16 days after being set on fire by ex-husband during live stream.

 

The tragic case of a rural livestreamer who died after being set alight by her ex-husband has triggered outrage over domestic violence on Chinese social media.

The 30-year-old woman, named Lamu, died on Wednesday after efforts to save her life failed, according to a statement from police in Jinchuan county, in the remote northwest of Sichuan province.

She had more than 885,000 followers on Douyin — the Chinese version of TikTok — and regularly posted videos of her daily life foraging in the mountains, cooking and lipsyncing to songs dressed in traditional Tibetan clothing.

The police statement on Thursday confirmed earlier local media reports that she was doused in petrol and set alight at home by her ex-husband, surnamed Tang, on September 14. She was transferred to Sichuan Provincial People’s hospital for treatment on September 17.

Lamu suffered burns to 90 percent of her body, her sister told the Chengdu Commercial Daily.

Her ex-husband Tang reportedly attacked her while she was livestreaming and had a history of domestic violence, local media said.

He was detained on suspicion of intentional homicide, police said.

Lamu’s fans had raised one million yuan ($150,000) for her hospital treatment shortly after the attack, local media reported.

Tens of thousands of grieving followers left comments on her Douyin page, while millions of users on the Twitter-like platform Weibo demanded justice using the trending hashtags “Lamu case” and “Lamu died after being set on fire by her ex-husband” — which were later censored.

“Remove the ‘internet celebrity’ label, she is just an ordinary woman who unfortunately suffered domestic violence and was abused and threatened,” read one comment with more than 28,000 likes.

Others called for her attacker to receive the death sentence.

Several other high-profile cases of domestic violence have sparked an outcry in China this year, with people calling on lawmakers to do more to seek justice for victims.

In June, a woman from Henan province was denied a divorce after she jumped out of a second-storey window to escape her husband’s physical abuse, leaving her paralysed.

The court later granted the divorce after her case attracted nationwide attention on social media.

In June, the eastern city of Yiwu introduced a system that lets women check whether their fiance has a history of domestic violence, in a move hailed by women’s rights advocates.

China only criminalised domestic violence in 2016, but the issue remains pervasive and under-reported, especially in underdeveloped rural communities.

Activists are worried that a recent change to China’s civil code — which introduced a mandatory 30-day “cooling-off” period for couples wishing to divorce — may make it harder for victims to leave abusive marriages.

Trump Official Says TikTok Must Become US Firm

 

TikTok must become a “US based company controlled by US investors” or will be banned in the United States, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday.

Mnuchin’s comments come amid uncertainty over a US-brokered deal to reorganize ownership of the popular Chinese-owned video-sharing app which US officials have called a national security risk.

Mnuchin said the deal brokered by the Trump administration to allow Silicon Valley giant Oracle and retail powerhouse Walmart a stake in a new operating entity called TikTok Global is “a great outcome.”

“If the deal can be closed on our terms, we’ll do it,” he told CNBC television.

“If not, it would be shut down. Any deal will fully satisfy all of our national security issues.”

Mnuchin said the plan would “build a world-class US-based company controlled by US investors” and fully satisfy all US national security issues.

President Donald Trump has said he would approve the plan to take TikTok out of the hands of its Chinese parent ByteDance, but it was unclear if Beijing would approve the deal.

The Chinese government has accused Trump of “bullying behavior” and “abusing national power” to take over TikTok.

A move by the Trump administration to block new TikTok downloads — in anticipation of a full ban in November to ramp up pressure for the deal — was blocked late Sunday by a US federal judge who ruled that the administration likely exceeded its legal authority.

Trump and his aides have claimed TikTok and its parent firm can be used to collect data on Americans for Chinese espionage, a claim denied by the company.

 

 

 

-AFP

Judge Suspends US Ban On Tiktok

 

In this file photo illustration taken on August 03, 2020, the social media application logo, TikTok is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on an US flag as the background in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo illustration taken on August 03, 2020, the social media application logo, TikTok is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on an US flag as the background in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

A judge late Sunday stopped the US from banning downloads of TikTok, freeing the video snippet-sharing mobile app to keep winning new users here — for now.

District Judge Carl Nichols issued a temporary injunction at the request of TikTok, which the White House has called a national security threat, alleging that its Chinese parent firm is tied to Beijing.

An order from US President Donald Trump sought to ban new downloads of the app at the end of Sunday, but allowed until November 12 for a second phase aimed at stopping TikTok from operating in the US entirely.

The judge denied TikTok‘s request to also suspend the November 12 ban, but noted that his decision was “for now.”

What about TikTok lovers?

TikTok lovers in the US will wake Monday to life as usual, at least in regard to their enjoyment of the platform.

That was going to be the case anyway, since the ban that had been poised to take effect Sunday only applied to new downloads and updates.

However, getting access to updates means longtime TikTok users will be able to get security patches to keep them better protected while using the app.

It also means US users will be able to get any new features TikTok releases.

Where from here?

The judge’s order tells TikTok and the US to work out a schedule to proceed, and that typically means the court wants opposing parties to find middle ground.

“My sense is that it is a pragmatic splitting of the baby for the short term, to give a little time for them to resolve the disputes and come to a resolution.” said University of Richmond law school professor Carl Tobias.

Once lawyers get a chance to review the reasoning behind the judge’s decision, the US could appeal the decision putting a hold on the download ban.

Legal analysts interviewed by AFP thought it unlikely the US would appeal, since lawyers typically don’t want to make an enemy of a judge early in a case by attacking their judgment.

Meanwhile, TikTok‘s overarching suit challenging the legality of Trump’s executive orders continues through the court.

TikTok‘s tomorrow?

Outside of the courtroom, TikTok can continue trying to work out a sale or alliance to appease US concerns.

A tentative deal would make Silicon Valley giant Oracle the technology partner for TikTok and a stakeholder in a new entity to be known as TikTok Global.

Such a deal is expected to be dimly viewed by Beijing, where some consider the US move an unjustified appropriation of Chinese technology.

-AFP

TikTok Argues For US Court Order To Block Trump Ban

This combination of pictures created on August 01, 2020 shows the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok displayed on a tablet screen in Paris, and US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 30, 2020. JIM WATSON, Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

A federal judge Thursday urged the Trump administration to consider delaying a ban on new downloads of the popular video app TikTok and hinted he might block the government’s order set to take effect on Sunday.

Judge Carl Nichols made the comments at a hastily called telephone hearing where TikTok argued a ban, even if temporary, could cause irreparable harm to the video-sharing application with some 100 million US users.

The judge agreed with TikTok lawyers to an expedited hearing schedule and said he would make a decision before the ban takes effect at 11:59 pm Sunday (0359 GMT Monday).

Nichols said he disagreed with government lawyers’ claims that the ban — which would not immediately prevent usage of TikTok but prevent downloads by new users and updates — “merely preserves the status quo.”

“I would like the government (Justice Department) to confer with its client,” Nichols said.

He asked the Justice Department lawyers to indicate by Friday if they were willing to postpone a ban; if not he would review briefs from both sides and make a ruling on TikTok’s request for a temporary injunction on President Donald Trump’s order.

The Chinese-owned app — which is wildly popular with US teenagers in partcular — has come under fire as tensions escalate between Beijing and Washington, with Trump threatening a ban if it is not sold to an American company.

Earlier this month, Trump cited national security concerns and issued orders to ban both the popular Chinese app WeChat — which has been put on hold by a separate court — and TikTok.

But the TikTok order stops short of a full ban until November 12, giving the Chinese parent firm ByteDance time to conclude a deal to transfer ownership of the app.

A tentative deal unveiled last weekend would make Silicon Valley giant Oracle the technology partner for TikTok and a stakeholder in a new entity to be known as TikTok Global.

AFP