Trump’s attempted TikTok ban has been a tale full of twists, turns, and totally asinine Trumpisms. It all started with some anti-Chinese sentiment.
Since ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is a Chinese company, Trump feared that the data they were collecting on the 165 million TikTok users in the US, was being fed to the Chinese government, giving them insight into our population’s activities.
This fear was not totally misplaced. After all, China does have a history of monitoring its own citizens and storing data on them. However, ByteDance was quick to point out that it didn’t store the data it collected through TikTok in China, that the company has an American CEO, and that the app wasn’t even available in China.
Of course, because it’s Trump, the semi-valid security concerns were only one piece of his fear-puzzle. He also stated that he viewed banning TikTok as “one of many ” moves he was considering to get back at China for COVID-19. There are also theories that Trump’s opposition to TikTok isn’t just about revenge against China, it’s also about revenge against the TikTok users who contributed to his embarrassingly empty Tulsa campaign rally.
Either way, his administration banned the app, but an hour before its time tick tock-ed away, ByteDance landed a Hail Mary deal. Walmart and Oracle agreed to take on a 20% stake in TikTok, with Walmart owning a 7.5% stake, and Oracle owning a 12.5% stake. Because 40% of ByteDance is already owned by U.S. venture capital firms, the majority of TikTok, with this deal, will be owned by U.S. money.
This was enough to appease the Trump administration who gave their blessing to the deal. The U.S. Department of Commerce announced it would delay prohibiting US transactions with TikTok until next Sunday while the deal is fully worked out. However, who’s to say if it will go through, after all, Trump’s opinions tend to change with the same frequency that TikTok’s 15 second videos are swiped.
Oracle and Walmart will be in charge of handling U.S. TikTok users’ data which will be moved to the Oracle’s cloud infrastructure. No timeline has been provided or comments on how the two companies will use the data, but it’s already suspected that Walmart is interested in it so they can profile shoppers.
Trump originally floated the idea that a TikTok deal should result in ByteDance giving a monetary reward to the US treasury, but last week said he was surprised when he was told such an arrangement would be illegal.
Adding more confusion to the situation, this week he was adamant that the deal would result in TikTok donating $5 billion to a fund to “educate people” about the “real history of our country.”
This statement took ByteDance by surprise. “Some news media reported that TikTok will set up a $5 billion education fund in the United States,” ByteDance said in a statement, “We would like to clarify that it was also our first time hearing about the news.”
Trump said, “We’re going to be setting up a very large fund for the education of American youth and that’ll be great.”
Oracle and Walmart said they would pay over $5 billion in taxes to the U.S. Treasury Department, and that they wanted to use TikTok to create education online videos to teach kids history and other subjects. The Trump administration and Oracle working together makes sense because Oracle’s CEO Safra Catz was a member of President Trump’s transition team, and Oracle’s Chairman Larry Ellison this year threw various fundraising events for Trump.
Trump’s recent interest in education was sparked in part by the New York Times’s “1619 Project” which is an educational program that reframes US history so it starts in the year 1619, when the first slave ships arrived in America.
This Pulitzer Prize winning project’s goals is to highlight the consequences of slavery and contributions of black Americas, re-framing the white-centric narrative we are currently told by textbooks. Of course, as always when white conservatives are forced to reckon with America’s not-so-innocent past, there has been a huge uproar from individuals who believe that the project is threatening America by “stoking racial divisions” and “rewriting history.”
One Twitter user wrote, “California has implemented the 1619 project into the public schools. soon you won’t recognize america,” The president retweeted the message adding, “Department of Education is looking at this. If so, they will not be funded!”
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, released a statement that, “President Trump’s latest announcement is a petty and disgraceful threat designed to distract and further divide our country at a time when we need true leadership that can unite us. California’s educators should feel empowered to lead courageous conversations with their students about the history of race and racism in our country—not worry if their school will lose funding.”