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Trump to Microsoft: You can buy TikTok, but you have to give the government a cut

The president says talks to buy TikTok can continue but not without a chunk of the revenue going to the U.S. Treasury.

Trump to Microsoft: You can buy TikTok, but you have to give the government a cut
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

What a difference a couple of days makes.

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On Friday night President Trump told reporters on Air Force One “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.” That would have pre-empted a sale to Microsoft, as the company was in talks to make a bid to purchase the short-form video platform—or at least parts of it—from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

Trump has since spoken with Microsoft chief Satya Nadella, and now seems to be open to the deal. “I don’t mind whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else—a big company, a secure company, a very American company buy it,” the president told reporters today, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Trump said the deal would have conditions, namely: “I did say that ‘If you buy it . . . a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States, because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen.’ Right now, they don’t have any rights unless we give it to them.”

Neither the White House nor Microsoft issued further statements.

TikTok, which has amassed 100 million American users, has come under increasing scrutiny for perceived privacy and security issues. India recently banned the app along with dozens of others based in China, and some lawmakers want the U.S. to do the same.

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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