The owner of TikTok has chosen Oracle over Microsoft as the American tech partner that could help keep the popular video-sharing app running in the U.S., according to a source familiar with the deal who was not authorized to speak publicly about it.
Microsoft announced Sunday that its bid to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations was rejected, removing the tech giant from the running a week before President Donald Trump promises to follow through with a plan to ban the Chinese-owned app in the U.S. over spying concerns.
TikTok and the White House declined to comment Sunday. Oracle didn’t return a request for comment but has previously declined comment.
Walmart, which had planned to partner with Microsoft on the acquisition, said Sunday it “continues to have an interest in a TikTok investment” and is talking about it with ByteDance and other parties.
The Trump administration has threatened to ban TikTok by Sept. 20 and ordered ByteDance to sell its U.S. business, claiming national-security risks due to its Chinese ownership. The government worries about user data being funneled to Chinese authorities. TikTok denies it is a national-security risk and is suing to stop the administration from the threatened ban.
It’s not clear if the proposed deal will only cover TikTok’s U.S. business, and, if so, how it will be split from the rest of TikTok’s social media platform, which is popular worldwide. ByteDance also owns a similar video app, Douyin, for the Chinese market.
Any deal must still be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS, a U.S. government group chaired by the Treasury Secretary that studies mergers for national-security reasons. The president can approve or deny a transaction recommended by the panel, though Trump has already voiced support for Oracle as a “great company” that could handle the acquisition.
Microsoft said in a Sunday statement that ByteDance “let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft.”
Microsoft added it was “confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests.” The company said it “would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combating disinformation.”
TikTok, which says it has 100 million U.S. users and about 700 million globally, is known for its fun, goofy videos of dancing, lip-syncing, pranks and jokes. It’s recently become home to more political content such as the comedian Sarah Cooper, who drew a large audience by lip-syncing Trump’s own often-disjointed statements from public appearances.
But the app has also raised concerns because of its Chinese ownership. The White House has cracked down on a range of Chinese businesses, including telecom equipment makers Huawei and ZTE and messaging app WeChat, over worries that they would enable Chinese authorities to get U.S. user data. Republican and Democratic lawmakers have raised concerns about censorship and children’s privacy.
TikTok denies that it has shared user data with the Chinese government or that it would do so if asked. The company says it has not censored videos at the request of Chinese authorities and insists it is not a national-security threat.
TikTok has sued to stop the ban, but not the sale order. The negotiations have been complicated by several factors, including Trump’s repeated demands that the U.S. government should get a “cut” of any deal, a stipulation and role for the president that experts say is unprecedented.
In addition, the Chinese government in late August unveiled new regulations that restrict exports of technology, likely including the artificial intelligence system TikTok uses to choose which videos to spool up to its users. That means ByteDance would have to obtain a license from China to export such technology to a foreign company.
The deal had come together rapidly after the administration ramped up its threats against TikTok this summer, despite TikTok’s efforts to put distance between its app and its Chinese ownership. It installed former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its American CEO, but he resigned in August after just a few months on the job, saying the “political environment has sharply changed.”
Both Microsoft and Oracle are known more for their business software offerings than for those intended for consumers.
Oracle primarily makes database software. It competes with tech giants such as Microsoft and Amazon that provide cloud services as well as business-software specialists like Salesforce.
Some analysts see Oracle’s interest in a consumer business as misguided. Oracle should focus on enterprise-market acquisitions and not invest in a consumer app like TikTok that doesn’t fit with the rest of its business, said Jefferies analyst Brent Thill, who compares the idea to Delta Airlines buying a motorcycle company. “It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Thill suggested that TikTok competitors like Facebook and Snapchat should be “cheering on Oracle” as a buyer, because Oracle wouldn’t “add a lot of value to the app.”
Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison is unusual among tech executives for his public support of President Donald Trump, hosting a fundraiser for him in February at his Rancho Mirage, California, estate. The company also hired a former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence; its CEO, Safra Catz, also served on Trump’s transition team.
The president said on Aug. 18 that Oracle was “a great company” that “could handle” buying TikTok. He declined to state his preference between Oracle and Microsoft as buyers.
By MATT O’BRIEN and TALI ARBEL AP Technology Writers.
Brave launches a non-tracking video call feature
Brave Software, a privacy and security-based software firm is welcoming a video conference feature under the name “Brave Talk’, emphasizing a privacy-conscious video chat option embedded into its own browser.
Through clicking on the camera icon or by visiting the page talk.brave.com, users of the Brave browser can enjoy a non-tracking video call option and even invite participants who do not have the particular browser built in their devices.
Brave, which is one of the Chromium-based browsers competing to become an alternative window to the web, is now vying to join the video conferencing space next to platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft teams. However, unlike other video calling apps, Brave is placing privacy as the number one priority.
Founded in 2016, the company prides itself with its privacy-conscious tools. The new non-tracking video call feature uses an open-source called ‘Jitsi as a Service.” Given that the source can be used directly in Brave, users won’t have to install any apps or software that can potentially compromise their devices.
This is the main differentiator between Brave and platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or Skype, who all have the power to monitor your calls.
“Brave Talk users can enable multiple layers of encryption on calls, so an eavesdropper cannot listen in on users’ calls, and our servers don’t save metadata, so calls, images, and activities are never recorded or shared without user consent.” The company explained according to ZDNet.
The Brave Talk feature is offered free of charge for one-on-one video conferences.
The new option also includes video group watch, livestreaming directly from YouTube, and unlimited call times.
However, a paid version does exist, allowing for even more benefits such as team calls with three or more users, having the ability to record calls, mute other users and enter a passcode to join a video call.
The paid version costs $7 a month for all international users, but the Chromium browser-based Brave has plans to launch the free version of Brave Talk for all Android and iOS users.
NBCU Warns YouTube TV Subscribers Could Be Blacked Out
YouTube said it has been unable to so far reach a new carriage agreement with NBCUniversal. The current contract expires on 30 September. If no new deal is struck by then, NBCUniversal content, such as Sunday Night Football, Jimmy Fallon or Law and Order SVU, will no longer be carried by Youtube TV.
NBCUniversal is warning YouTube TV subscribers that they are in danger of losing 14 channels from their streaming lineup if Google and NBCUniversal are unable to come to an agreement on carriage agreement terms.
If you are a YouTube TV subscriber, you may lose NBC, Bravo, CNBC, E!, Golf Channel, MSNBC, Oxygen, SYFY, Telemundo, The Olympic Channel, Universal Kids, Universo, and USA Network.
Google said that if it gets equitable terms, it will renew its agreement with NBCU. Otherwise, subscribers will get a discount for the duration of a blackout, which could begin Thursday.
“If we are unable to reach a deal by Thursday, the NBCU lineup of channels will no longer be available on YouTube TV and we will decrease our monthly price by $10, from $64.99 to $54.99 (while this content remains off our platform),” Google said.
It added: “You can sign up for NBC’s own direct-to-consumer streaming service, Peacock, which they offer for $4.99/month to continue watching NBCU content, such as Sunday Night Football.”
In a statement, NBCU said it is seeking fair rates from Google for YouTube TV.
“Unfortunately, Google is refusing to make a deal at these fair rates and is willing to withhold entertainment, news and sports programming from their paying customers,” NBCU said.
“NBCUniversal feels a responsibility to inform our fans that they are at risk of losing their favorite shows if Google continues with their demands.”
Facebook responds to WSJ’s Facebook Files series
After The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a sweeping report regarding Instagram’s harmful impact on teenage girls, Instagram’s parent company Facebook is finally speaking up nearly two weeks later.
Pratiti Raychoudhury, Vice President and Head of Research at Facebook posted on Facebook’s Newsroom statements clearing out misconceptions, describing WSJ’s portrayal of their internal research as “not accurate,” noting that WSJ journalists poorly interpreted the data.
The WSJ published on September 14 multiple exposes under the name “The Facebook Files,” based on internal Facebook documents that got leaked to the press. The series emphasized Instagram’s negative effect on teenagers, with a focus on teenage girls. The WSJ pointed the finger at Facebook for acknowledging its harm but only doing “minimal efforts to address these issues” and toning down the truth to the public.
Raychoudhury completely neglected addressing multiple issues talked about in WSJ’s series, including that Instagram is found to be addictive to most users. Instead, the VP and head of research highlighted that the internal study had just 40 participants. Given that Instagram has over 1 billion users, the participant sample is described as “insufficient.” The study was “designed to inform internal conversations about teens’ most negative perceptions of Instagram,” according Raychoudhury.
While most of WSJ’s claim went unaddressed, Raychoudhury did explain that the body image problem discussed by WSJ was just one of 12 hypothetical issues that Instagram could potentially worsen for teenage girls.
“Body image was the only area where teen girls who reported struggling with the issue said Instagram made it worse as compared to the other 11 areas,” Raychoudhury wrote.
While Facebook remained largely silent after the accusations began spreading, Facebook’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, is expected to speak on the matter before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Thursday.
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