Newly Surfaced Rules From China Complicate TikTok Deal With The US

The risk of TikTok’s possible ban from being downloaded in the US is higher than ever before.

On August 6th, The Trump Administration passed an Executive Order saying that unless TikTok is sold to a US company by September 15th, the app would be banned from being downloaded from users in the US. Failure to do so would lead to TikTok – and its 1,400 employees – to have to cease all US operations. The administration claims that the reason for the Order is that they have reasons to believe that the app is a threat to national security. TikTok has since followed up by suing the Administration to block the ban, refuting that they “strongly disagree with the Administration’s position that TikTok is a national security threat and .. have articulated these objections previously.”

Due to this new order, US-based companies like Microsoft and Oracle have stepped in to try to buy the app off of TikToks’ parent company – Beijing-based ByteDance – to prevent this as much as possible.

However, due to newly surfaced rules from China, there’s a huge chance that TikTok will not be sold by this deadline. 

One of the things that make TikTok so popular is the incredibly accurate personalization of content, which is shown on the “For You” page of the app. The key to making this possible? Its’ artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence makes it easy for people to customize and tailor their “For You” page based on their behavior on the app. To sum it up – it’s what makes TikTok what it is today.

However, recently, China has set new restrictions on 23 different kinds of technology, including the artificial intelligence that powers TikTok. This new restriction means that this technology cannot be exported to the US unless the government of China gives them permission to. 

It’s obvious that this new restriction is a huge risk for TikTok. According to The Washington Post, “‘You could buy the brand [TikTok] and the user data without the algorithm, but the algorithm is the most valuable part of TikTok and the secret of its success,’ said James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in D.C.”, meaning that if the government of China doesn’t approve of the exportation of this new technology, there could be a huge chance that US-based companies will no longer have interest in buying TikTok due to the fact that their key technology is missing. 

As for now, a representative from ByteDance says that they will “strictly abide” by the exportation laws that China has set in place.