TikTok is one of the most popular social media platforms out today. From trending dances to sketch comedies, social media influencers are really finding creative ways to make great content, brand themselves, and earn livable salaries. Still, the social media platform has not been without its challenges and controversy.
What Is TikTok and Why Is TikTok US In the Throes of Political Discourse
TikTok, in many ways, is like the popular Vine app we had a few years ago. Like Vine, TikTok is a video social media app where 'real short videos' take center-stage. The short-form video app has been the source of viral dances that have taken pop songs up the Billboard charts, as well as spearheaded viral political activism and satirical content. It is the virality of its content that has added to the app's popularity and rapid rise within the pop culture digital dynamic.
All things considered (including the shareability of its content to just about every other popular social media platform), all is good and well in the world of TikTok. Well, except for its owner, that is. The TikTok app is owned by Chinese company ByteDance. The concern is that user data can be handed over to the Chinese government if so required. The owners of TikTok has pointed to the fact that they are against such practices and would not hand over user data at the request of the Chinese or any other government. Still, the United States (US) government considers the app to be a national security threat and commands that the app owner meet the outlined requirements of risk being banned in the US.
The Ultimatum: The Only Solution the Trump Administration Will Accept
Even with the best efforts of the owners of TikTok to reassure the US government and other critics that the app does not use spy technologies nor is it a threat to national security, the Trump administration has laid down the gauntlet. The ultimatum is simply this, be banned in the US or be owned by a US company with user data being held and controlled on US soil - far from access by foreign governments and espionage. With the option to be US-owned, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Unpacking TikTok and Oracle's Partnership
As of the date of this article, TikTok still remains in operation even though we have passed the September 15, 2020 deadline of the ultimatum. This 'extension' of sorts is perhaps due to the efforts and announcement of Oracle to be the US tech partners for TikTok - a position they secured after a more ambitious bid by Microsoft was rejected. However, while TikTok's 1400+ US employees and millions of users can breathe a sigh of relief, it is not the time for celebrations just yet.
For starter, the deal with Oracle is not a true sale at all. Instead, it is being described in many circles as a glorified hosting deal. This view is reinforced when details of the deal fail to highlight just how Oracle will operate the platform and make the necessary security changes and concerned without access to source code and other important data and operation features. It is also implied from Microsoft's statement on the rejection of their offer that they intended to make changes in matters of security, privacy, combatting misinformation, and general online safety, but their proposal was rejected.
For now, it seems that only time will tell if this new deal with Oracle will be accepted by the Trump administration and if any changes in the areas of concern will be forthcoming.
National security expert on the implications of a TikTok-Oracle partnership