ByteDance CEO says goal of President Trump is to ban TikTok, not force sale

TikTok logo
TikTok logo (Image credit: TikTok)

What you need to know

  • ByteDance has been put on the clock by President Trump.
  • It has been given 45 days to agree a sale of TikTok to Microsoft.
  • In a leaked internal letter, CEO Zhang Yiming says that the "primary goal" of the White House is still to ban the app.

According to multiple outlets, the CEO of TikTok parent company ByteDance has said that the "primary goal" of President Trump and Washington remains a ban on TikTok in the U.S. rather than its sale.

According to Reuters:

ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming told employees in an internal letter on Tuesday that the United States goal was not to force a sale of TikTok U.S. operations but rather to ban the app, and that some people had misconceptions about the situation.

The letter, according to the report, was issued to ByteDance's Chinese employees following criticism of the firm after it was revealed that a deal may be in the works to sell TikTok to Microsoft.

As Sputnik reports, the letter reportedly stated that anti-China sentiment "has risen in many countries in the last two years":

the tech firm's founder and head Zhang Yiming said current circumstances mean the company should anticipate more difficulties in the foreseeable future.

The latest reports suggest that President Trump has approved a 45-day window for ByteDance and Microsoft to come to an agreement over a sale. Inexplicably, President Trump has also demanded that the government gets a "substantial portion" of the sale stating:

"The United States should get a very large percentage of that price, because we're making it possible. It would come from the sale, which nobody else would be thinking about but me, but that's the way I think, and I think it's very fair."

As per the BBC, DLA Piper lawyer Nicholas Klein noted that the government "doesn't have the authority to take a cut of a private deal" through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. MIT Technology Review reported Charlotte Jee also said that the President's comments were "pretty astonishing" and akin to "Mafia-like behavior," by threatening a ban to drive the price of TikTok down and then taking a cut of the deal afterward.

In a statement on Sunday, ByteDance said it was "faced with all kinds of complicated and unimaginable difficulties, including the tense international political environment, the collision and conflict of different cultures, and the plagiarism and smear of competitor Facebook." In a letter sent to employees yesterday, CEO Zhang Yiming said:

Although we have repeatedly emphasized that we are a private company and we are willing to adopt more technical solutions to eliminate concerns, CFIUS still believes that Bytedance must sell TikTok's US business. We do not agree with this decision because we have always insisted on ensuring user data security, platform neutrality and transparency. Considering the current environment, we must also face the decision of CFIUS and the executive order of the US President, while not giving up exploring any possibilities. We tried to conduct preliminary discussions with a technology company on the cooperation plan and formulate a plan to ensure that TikTok can continue to serve American users.

The situation appears to remain extremely fluid at this time.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9