Trump vs Tiktok: compromise through sale?

Donald Trump has said he is willing to refrain from banning the video app Tiktok provided its US division is sold to a "very American company". Microsoft has been conducting talks for a deal for some time now. Tiktok belongs to the Chinese group Bytedance and has hundreds of millions of mostly young users worldwide. Commentators say the actions of all sides on this issue raise questions.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Deal would leave a stale aftertaste

The takeover of Tiktok's American business would be a risky manoeuvre, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung believes:

“Whether Tiktok can continue its meteoric rise remains to be seen, especially since Facebook is trying to copy the app with similar functions, as it has already done in competition with other rivals. Microsoft is also taking a considerable risk with its reputation. Social networks are a minefield - the company would be vulnerable to data scandals, political influence and controversy over hate comments. Already [Microsoft boss Satya Nadella] is paying a political price for wooing Tiktok, because he has exposed himself to Trump's capers. He submitted to the president in a flattering statement. ... If the takeover goes through, it will leave a stale aftertaste.”

De Tijd (BE) /

Mafia practices in the White House

Trump's demand that if Microsoft acquires Tiktok, a portion of the proceeds should go to the US Treasury goes too far, De Tijd believes:

“The attack on Tiktok is the umpteenth incident between the United States and China. ... Technology is increasingly a battlefield in geopolitics. ... And now Trump is going one step further. By openly demanding a share if the deal goes through, the president is shifting the boundaries. Such involvement is called 'pizzo' in Sicily and Calabria, and so American lawyers aren't hesitating to use the word 'mafia'. What the US president's real intention is remains unclear. And that only renders this geopolitical conflict even more opaque.”

France Inter (FR) /

Why Trump fears the platform

The US president sees Tiktok as a threat and wants to get rid of it, France Inter believes:

“The app is best known as a platform for dance and funny videos lasting just a few seconds, filmed and posted with friends. But that's not all! It's also - and above all - the app for the youngest: teens and young adults. In the United States, Tiktok has become an enormous political forum where this generation organises itself and shares posts on environmental protection, racism and messages against police violence. You can say that if Twitter and Facebook were the Arab Spring apps, Tiktok is Black Lives Matter's. With a ban on Tiktok - and 49 other apps of Chinese origin - Donald Trump is banning a powerful information tool that's being used against him.”

Expressen (SE) /

The World Wide Web is no more

The US is behaving just like the Chinese, Expressen points out:

“The Western world has always stood for a freer Internet - at least in its Sunday sermons. But now that the US is starting to ban apps it's approaching the Chinese position in practice, even if there are good reasons for it. ... What we're seeing is the emergence of a more regional Internet. And the digital distances can even grow - if [the Chinese messenger service] WeChat closes in the US, it will be much more difficult for the Chinese diaspora to communicate with family and friends. Maybe it's time to delete the first w in world wide web.”

L'Echo (BE) /

Cold War 2.0

Barack Obama saw just how dangerous the fragmentation of the Internet was, L'Echo recalls:

“Seeing eye to eye with the pioneers of the worldwide web, the former US president advocated the re-creation of a common space so as to avoid the development of increasingly distinct, self-contained worlds that only reinforce their own biases. Obama evoked the fragmentation at work in our societies, which ultimately promotes extremism. How true his analysis is today, when a digital Chinese Wall is strangely imitating the Iron Curtain. At a time when our societies are so deeply fractured, the danger is great that this impossible peace, this improbable war [as philosopher Raymond Aaron called the Cold War] will once again paralyse the world for decades.”

The Independent (GB) /

At last more competition for Google and Facebook

The Independent is pleased by the news that software developer Microsoft is interested in Tiktok:

“If Microsoft does get control of the US side of TikTok, that brings the great old lady of high-tech America into direct rivalry with its newer rivals, especially Facebook and Google. This is good news for people who believe that the best way to preserve diversity of both information and opinion in a fractured world is to have diversity of media platforms. Put another way, if you are going to have an oligopoly - and I am afraid the nature of social media is that oligopoly is inevitable - better to have five or six giant players rather than two or three.”

Die Welt (DE) /

A chance for Europe to prove itself

The EU and its member states should not wait for Washington to solve the problem for them, Die Welt warns:

“They must scrutinise Tiktok themselves and take a courageous decision - even at the risk of falling out with China or the US. This time things must go better than with the 5G network expansion. For months, Europe's governments have been struggling with how to deal with the Chinese company Huawei. They are facing the prospect of a patchwork quilt. For years Europe has wanted to position itself as a bastion against false news and as an authority for data sovereignty. Tiktok is now the chance to prove how serious it is.”