TikTok Chooses Oracle To Be Its U.S. “Technology Partner.” Is It Enough to Stop a U.S. Ban?
- TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, accepted an offer from the software company Oracle on Sunday after rejecting a deal with Microsoft, which was widely considered a favorite in the bidding for the app.
- However, the deal is not expected to be an outright sale. Under it, ByteDance retains ownership of TikTok but will outsource the cloud management of its data.
- It is unclear if the compromise could be at odds with a new Chinese law that prevents ByteDance from selling the app to a foreign company without the Chinese government’s permission.
- Some are also concerned the Trump administration might not accept this compromise if it is found to not adequately address the administration’s national security concerns.
TikTok Accepts Oracle Bid
ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, chose to partner with the software company Oracle on Sunday instead of Microsoft, which was considered a frontrunner in the bidding for control of the app’s U.S. operations.
“We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests,” Microsoft said in a blog post Sunday. “To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation…”
Shortly after this announcement, ByteDance confirmed it had accepted Oracle’s bid. While it is still unknown how much Oracle offered or how it compares to Microsoft’s bid, one of the reasons why ByteDance may have chosen Oracle instead is because of the deal itself.
Microsoft has wanted to buy TikTok from ByteDance. Oracle, on the other hand, has reportedly struck a different deal. According to multiple outlets who spoke to people familiar with the discussions, ByteDance has described Oracle as its new “technology partner.” This later matched language used by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Monday.
Under the conditions of the deal, ByteDance would retain ownership of TikTok and its algorithm. Meanwhile, it would outsource the cloud management of its data to Oracle.
According to Mnuchin, ByteDance is committed to moving its headquarters from China to the United States, bringing with it 20,000 new jobs. That condition is reportedly to quell concerns that ByteDance would still be subject to laws that would require it to share data with the Chinese government if directed.
China’s New Rule
On Monday, Chinese state media reported: “ByteDance will not sell TikTok’s U.S. operations to Microsoft or Oracle, nor will the company give the source code to any U.S. buyers, sources said.”
That doesn’t mean the reports of this deal are fake. Outsourcing management of data isn’t the same as giving the source code.
Instead, this is referring to a recent law revision in China meant to complicate or even halt the sale of TikTok to a U.S. company. That law, which was changed at the end of last month, now prevents Chinese companies from selling certain types of technology to foreign buyers without the explicit permission of the Chinese government.
Regarding why China changed this law all of a sudden, political economist Shirley Yu told CNN Business, “Beijing wants to protect its ascending status in global technology.”
For now, it remains unclear if China sees this deal as a win or if it thinks it goes too far, especially because it could mean a shift for TikTok’s global headquarters. It’s also unclear whether or not this deal could simply skirt that revised law altogether or if the Chinese government would still need to sign off on it.
Will the Trump Administration Accept This Compromise?
It’s not just China that could complicate this deal. Last month, President Donald Trump issued two executive orders against TikTok. The first, signed on Aug. 6, banned any transactions with the app starting on Sept. 20. The other, signed on Aug. 14, gave ByteDance 90 days to divest from its American assets and any data that TikTok had gathered in the U.S.
“There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance… might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” Trump said in his second executive order.
Trump has repeatedly expressed fears that ByteDance could hand over U.S user data to China; however, TikTok has consistently denied that claim, saying that U.S. user data is stored domestically with a backup in Singapore.
Still, pressure remained, prompting the push for an American company to buy U.S. operations of TikTok.
This latest deal with Oracle has cast doubt over whether it’s enough to meet the Trump administration’s national security concerns. For example, Alex Stamos, a cybersecurity expert and former Facebook security head, said on Twitter that the deal “would not address any of the legitimate concerns about TikTok, and the White House accepting such a deal would demonstrate that this exercise was pure grift.”
A deal where Oracle takes over hosting without source code and significant operational changes would not address any of the legitimate concerns about TikTok, and the White House accepting such a deal would demonstrate that this exercise was pure grift. https://t.co/3kpwqnEYol— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) September 13, 2020
One former U.S. official, who spoke with The Washington Post, also noted that the current deal, at least at the moment, seems “well short of a U.S. company taking over the asset and the algorithm, and politically, it would be a massive climb-down from what the president said he was going to accomplish with this.”
According to a current senior administration official who also spoke with The Post, “It’s not a climb-down.”
The official stressed any deal would need to be approved by an interagency group, which would first confirm that national security standards have been met. “All of the details are not out,” that official added.
On “Squawk Box,” Mnuchin said that he’s open to hearing the offer, adding that Oracle has made “many representations for national security issues.”
It’s not unreasonable to think that the U.S. may approve the deal. Oracle’s CEO, Larry Ellison, is a prominent Trump supporter and the company itself even has close ties to the administration. According to Axios, that could give it an edge in trying to win White House approval.
Still, even though Trump has called Oracle a “great company,” Trump has also been adamant that TikTok must become a fully U.S.-owned company, so it is also likely that this deal will not meet the administration’s demands.
As for what’s next, ByteDance, Oracle, the U.S., and possibly the Chinese government would all need to sign on to this deal. Because of that, the idea that it could all fall apart isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
The deadline for this deal to be reached is Sept. 20. If there’s still no agreement by then, TikTok will likely try to obtain a temporary injunction to remain usable.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Axios) (The Wall Street Journal)
Schools Across the U.S. Cancel Classes Friday Over Unverified TikTok Threat
Officials in multiple states said they haven’t found any credible threats but are taking additional precautions out of an abundance of safety.
Schools in no fewer than 10 states either canceled classes or increased their police presence on Friday after a series of TikToks warned of imminent shooting and bombs threats.
Despite that, officials said they found little evidence to suggest the threats are credible. It’s possible no real threat was actually ever made as it’s unclear if the supposed threats originated on TikTok, another social media platform, or elsewhere.
“We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness, which is why we’re working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok,” TikTok’s Communications team tweeted Thursday afternoon.
Still, given the uptick of school shootings in the U.S. in recent years, many school districts across the country decided to respond to the rumors. According to The Verge, some districts in California, Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas shut down Friday.
“Based on law enforcement interviews, Little Falls Community Schools was specifically identified in a TikTok post related to this threat,” one school district in Minnesota said in a letter Thursday. “In conversations with local law enforcement, the origins of this threat remain unknown. Therefore, school throughout the district is canceled tomorrow, Friday, December 17.”
In Gilroy, California, one high school that closed its doors Friday said it would reschedule final exams that were expected to take place the same day to January.
According to the Associated Press, several other districts in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania stationed more police officers at their schools Friday.
Viral Misinformation or Legitimate Warnings?
As The Verge notes, “The reports of threats on TikTok may be self-perpetuating.”
For example, many of the videos online may have been created in response to initial warnings as more people hopped onto the trend. Amid school cancellations, videos have continued to sprout up — many awash with both rumors and factual information.
“I’m scared off my ass, what do I do???” one TikTok user said in a now-deleted video, according to People.
“The post is vague and not directed at a specific school, and is circulating around school districts across the country,” Chicago Public Schools said in a letter, though it did not identify any specific post. “Please do not re-share any suspicious or concerning posts on social media.”
According to Dr. Amy Klinger, the director of programs for the nonprofit Educator’s School Safety Network, “This is not 2021 phenomenon.”
Instead, she told The Today Show that her network has been tracking school shooting threats since 2013, and she noted that in recent years, they’ve become more prominent on social media.
“It’s not just somebody in a classroom of 15 people hearing someone make a threat,” she said. “It’s 15,000 people on social media, because it gets passed around and it becomes larger and larger and larger.”
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Associated Press) (People)
Jake Paul Says He “Can’t Get Cancelled” as a Boxer
The controversial YouTuber opened up about what it has been like to go from online fame to professional boxing.
The New Yorker Profiles Jake Paul
YouTuber and boxer Jake Paul talked about his career switch, reputation, and cancel culture in a profile published Monday in The New Yorker.
While Paul rose to fame as the Internet’s troublemaker, he now spends most of his time in the ring. He told the outlet that one difference between YouTube and boxing is that his often controversial reputation lends better to his new career.
“One thing that is great about being a fighter is, like, you can’t get cancelled,” Paul said. The profile noted that the sport often rewards and even encourages some degree of bad behavior.
“I’m not a saint,” Paul later continued. “I’m also not a bad guy, but I can very easily play the role.”
Paul also said the other difference between his time online and his time in boxing is the level of work. While he says he trains hard, he confessed that there was something more challenging about making regular YouTube content.
“Being an influencer was almost harder than being a boxer,” he told The New Yorker. “You wake up in the morning and you’re, like, Damn, I have to create fifteen minutes of amazing content, and I have twelve hours of sunlight.”
Jake Paul Vs. Tommy Fury
The New Yorker profile came just after it was announced over the weekend Paul will be fighting boxer Tommy Fury in an 8-round cruiserweight fight on Showtime in December.
“It’s time to kiss ur last name and ur family’s boxing legacy goodbye,” Paul tweeted. “DEC 18th I’m changing this wankers name to Tommy Fumbles and celebrating with Tom Brady.”
Both Paul and Fury are undefeated, according to ESPN. Like Paul, Fury has found fame outside of the sport. He has become a reality TV star in the U.K. after appearing on the hit show “Love Island.”
See what others are saying: (The New Yorker) (Dexerto) (ESPN)
Hackers Hit Twitch Again, This Time Replacing Backgrounds With Image of Jeff Bezos
The hack appears to be a form of trolling, though it’s possible that the infiltrators were able to uncover a security flaw while reviewing Twitch’s newly-leaked source code.
Hackers targeted Twitch for a second time this week, but rather than leaking sensitive information, the infiltrators chose to deface the platform on Friday by swapping multiple background images with a photo of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
According to those who saw the replaced images firsthand, the hack appears to have mostly — and possibly only — affected game directory headers. Though the incident appears to be nothing more than a surface-level prank, as Amazon owns Twitch, it could potentially signal greater security flaws.
For example, it’s possible the hackers could have used leaked internal security data from earlier this week to discover a network vulnerability and sneak into the platform.
The latest jab at the platforms came after Twitch assured its users it has seen “no indication” that their login credentials were stolen during the first hack. Still, concerns have remained regarding the potential for others to now spot cracks in Twitch’s security systems.
It’s also possible the Bezos hack resulted from what’s known as “cache poisoning,” which, in this case, would refer to a more limited form of hacking that allowed the infiltrators to manipulate similar images all at once. If true, the hackers likely would not have been able to access Twitch’s back end.
The photo changes only lasted several hours before being returned to their previous conditions.
First Twitch Hack
Despite suspicions and concerns, it’s unclear whether the Bezos hack is related to the major leak of Twitch’s internal data that was posted to 4chan on Wednesday.
That leak exposed Twitch’s full source code — including its security tools — as well as data on how much Twitch has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019.
It also revealed Amazon’s at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library, codenamed Vapor, which would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.
Even though Twitch has said its login credentials appear to be secure, it announced Thursday that it has reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Users are still being urged to change their passwords and update or implement two-factor authentication if they haven’t already.