Trump Administration Says it Will Review Deal After Oracle Confirms Partnership with TikTok

Tami Abdollah

Tami Abdollah was dot.LA's senior technology reporter. She was previously a national security and cybersecurity reporter for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C. She's been a reporter for the AP in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and for L.A.'s NPR affiliate KPCC. Abdollah spent nearly a year in Iraq as a U.S. government contractor. A native Angeleno, she's traveled the world on $5 a day, taught trad climbing safety classes and is an avid mountaineer. Follow her on Twitter.

Trump Administration Says it Will Review Deal After Oracle Confirms Partnership with TikTok

Oracle Corporation has triumphed over Microsoft and Walmart in the contest for the U.S. operations of TikTok. Although negotiations over TikTok's future have largely centered around an outright acquisition, the short-form video app's Chinese parent company ByteDance has chosen the Bay Area software giant as its "trusted technology provider," the company confirmed Monday.


The terms of the deal have not been disclosed. After pushing for TikTok's sale to a U.S. company, President Donald Trump threw his support behind Oracle in mid-August. Oracle's cofounder and CTO Larry Ellison has said he supports Trump and held a campaign fundraising event for him in February.

A TikTok spokesperson said Monday that the company has submitted a proposal to the Treasury Department that would "resolve the administration's security concerns" and let it continue to support its community of 100 million people in the U.S., including those whose livelihoods rely on TikTok.

The news marks the next step in a saga that placed TikTok at the center of the U.S.-China trade war. TikTok's popularity was evidenced earlier this year when the app set a new record for most quarterly downloads. By then, it was facing increased scrutiny from the U.S. and other governments over data security and privacy concerns and worries about foreign interference. Those concerns escalated when the app was banned in India, one of its largest markets, and President Trump issued two executive orders to force ByteDance's hand.

The first, dated August 6, banned any "transaction" by any person or entity with ByteDance and TikTok in 45 days, or after Sept. 20. According to the order, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce will identify exactly which transactions are included in the order, the same day it goes into effect,.

The second order, issued eight days later, mandated that ByteDance divest any assets or property that enable its TikTok operations in the U.S., along with any data collected via the app in the country. It goes into effect within 90 days of the order's issuance, with a possible extension of up to 30 days.

Negotiations slowed briefly when the Chinese government issued new rules in late August limiting what Chinese companies can export. Given the new rule, it's unclear whether Oracle would gain access to TikTok's algorithm for content recommendations, arguably the heart of the application.

Oracle Headquarters in Redwood CityCourtesy dahlstroms.com | Håkan

Oracle said ByteDance submitted the proposal to the U.S. Treasury Department over the weekend. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on CNBC Monday that Oracle's proposal includes making TikTok global a U.S. headquartered company, bringing 20,000 new jobs with it.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States will review the proposal this week for national security implications and make a recommendation to the president, Mnuchin said.

This is not the first time the Trump administration has objected to Chinese-owned companies' presence in the U.S. due to national security concerns. The president banned commercial trade with Chinese telecom giants Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp in a May 2019 executive order, citing the same International Emergency Economic Powers Act that he invoked in the TikTok orders. A year later, this past May, Trump extended that ban to May 2021.

The bans have cost the Chinese companies potentially billions in lost revenue and handicapped their efforts to expand.

In June of this year, the Federal Communications Commission designated the Chinese companies as national security threats, which prohibits U.S. companies from accessing an $8.3 billion government fund if they use telecom equipment from Huawei or ZTE.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said then that Chinese law obligates companies to cooperate with their country's intelligence services, which is a U.S. national security risk.

Trump's ban on Huawei and ZTE uses the same legal justification as the TikTok ban, but the effects are likely to be different.

American telecom firms were relatively late to developing 5G technology and are competing with the Chinese telecom giants for the upper hand in controlling these networks, over which massive swathes of the world's data will travel. Among consumers, ZTE and Huawei have never been popular in the U.S.. TikTok has flourished as a place for free expression in the U.S. market and a favorite app of Gen Z.

West Hollywood-based Grindr Inc., host of the popular gay dating app and another social app, was also forced to cut ties with its Chinese ownership.

The company sold a majority stake in 2016 to Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech, which then fully acquired the app in 2018. But the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States ordered the Chinese company to divest from Grindr due to national security concerns. In May, Reuters reported that the U.S. national security panel approved a $620 million sale to an American investor group called San Vicente Acquisition.

A TikTok Timeline: The Rise and Pause of a Social Video Giant

Justice Dept. Calls TikTok 'Direct Threat' to Privacy and Security of USTikTok | Solen Feyissa | Flickr

See our timeline below for key points in how TikTok's story has developed over the last eight years, starting with the founding of ByteDance, its rising popularity and the mounting concerns about privacy and security.

March 2012: Internet entrepreneur Zhang Yiming founds ByteDance in Beijing.

August 2012: ByteDance launches its first product, Toutiao, an AI-powered news aggregator.

July 2014: Alex Zhu launches Musical.ly, an app that enables users to create short-form lipsync music videos; Musical.ly is headquartered in Shanghai with an office in Santa Monica.

July 2015: Musical.ly hits #1 in Apple app store.

September 2016: ByteDance launches Douyin, an app with similar functionality as Musical.ly; within a year, the Chinese app achieves 100 million users and 1 billion views/ day.

September 2017: ByteDance brings Douyin outside of China's Great Firewall under the name of TikTok; the app does well in numerous Asian markets.

November 2017: ByteDance acquires Musical.ly for $1 billion; the company starts operating Musical.ly in the US, Douyin in China and TikTok in other markets.

August 2018: ByteDance merges Musical.ly with TikTok and migrates all user profiles to TikTok; Alex Zhu becomes TikTok senior vice president, saying, "Combining Musical.ly and TikTok is a natural fit given the shared mission of both experiences – to create a community where everyone can be a creator."

October 2018: ByteDance achieves a record $75 billion valuation, making it the world's biggest privately backed startup.

February 2019: Lil Nas X releases "Old Town Road" on TikTok, catalyzing a viral sensation that ultimately reaches #1 on Billboard's charts.

February 2019: TikTok is fined $5.7 million for child data privacy violations.

September 2019:Washington Post reports that TikTok may be censoring protests in Hong Kong.

September 2019: Leaked documents show TikTok instructs its moderators to censor videos that mention various subjects deemed offensive by the Chinese government and Commuist Party, The Guardian reports.

October 2019: U.S. Senator Marco Rubio calls on the U.S. government to investigate the national security implications of ByteDance's acquisition of Musical.ly, citing concerns over the Chinese government and Communist Party's use of TikTok to censor content and silence open discussion.

October 2019: U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton ask U.S. Acting Director of National Intelligence to assess the national security risks from TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps, and request a congressional briefing on the findings.

October 2019: Alex Zhu begins reporting directly to ByteDance head Zhang Yiming; he had previously reported to the head of Douyin.

November 2019: The U.S. government launches an investigation into ByteDance's acquisition of Musical.ly on the grounds that ByteDance did not seek clearance when it acquired Musical.ly.

TikTok reportedly has 26.5 million monthly active users in the U.S. at this time.

December 2019: The U.S. Defense Department's Defense Information Systems Agency issues a recommendation that military personnel delete TikTok from all smartphones.

Q4 2019: TikTok becomes the most downloaded app in the world and second in the U.S.

January 2020: Several U.S. military branches ban TikTok on government-issued smartphones.

March 2020: U.S. officials reach out to TikTok to discuss political disinformation.

April 2020: TikTok surpasses 2 billion downloads and sets the record for quarterly downloads.

May 2020: Various child privacy groups file a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that TikTok is violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and flouting terms agreed to following its February 2019 settlement.

A TikTok spokesperson says the company "takes the issue of safety seriously for all our users, and we continue to further strengthen our safeguards and introduce new measures to protect young people on the app."

May 2020: ByteDance hires former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as chief operating officer and TikTok chief executive officer.

June 2020: Teens organize on TikTok to fool Trump administration into anticipating high attendance for the President's Tulsa, Oklahoma campaign rally.

June 2020: India bans 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, citing national security and data privacy concerns; the move comes amid ongoing skirmishes between the two countries on the China-India border.

July 2020: Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison launches an investigation into TikTok surrounding data concerns.

July 2020: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirms the U.S. is looking into banning TikTok over concerns the app is sharing data with China; the next day, President Trump says he is considering a ban, framing it as a potential retaliation tactic against China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Aug. 2, 2020: Microsoft issues a blog post citing a conversation between chief executive Satya Nadella and President Trump around the company's potential acquisition of TikTok.

Aug. 4, 2020: Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrisson says there is not sufficient evidence to suggest a TikTok ban is necessary.

Aug. 6, 2020: President Trump issues an executive order banning American companies from transacting with ByteDance or its subsidiaries, namely TikTok; the U.S. Secretary of Commerce is to identify specific prohibited "transactions" 45 days after the order is issued.

Aug. 14, 2020: Trump issues another executive order demanding ByteDance "divest all interests and rights" in its assets and property that enable TikTok's U.S. operations, and data collected via TikTok in the U.S., within 90 days. The order says the U.S. investigation into ByteDance's acquisition of Musical.ly presented "credible evidence" that ByteDance "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States."

Aug. 17, 2020: Oracle enters the discussion as a reported TikTok suitor.

Aug. 18, 2020: President Trump says he would support Oracle buying TikTok. Oracle's cofounder and CTO Larry Ellison had previously said he supports Trump and had fundraised for him in February 2020.

Aug. 24, 2020: TikTok announces it is suing the Trump administration over the ban for failure to protect due process. Separately, a U.S.-based TikTok employee also sues the administration, stating, "I am a patriot"

Aug. 26, 2020:Kevin Mayer steps down from ByteDance and TikTok, citing a diminished role in a letter to colleagues. Rumors swirl that he was left out of ByteDance's negotiations with potential acquirers

Aug. 27, 2020: Walmart issues a statement that it is interested in partnering with Microsoft to acquire TikTok.

Aug. 28, 2020: L.A.-based Triller, a TikTok upstart competitor, is reported to have issued a bid for TikTok along with investment firm Centricus.

Aug. 29, 2020:The Chinese government issues new export rules that complicate the exportation of TikTok's underlying technology – namely its "For You" algorithm – to any foreign buyer.

Aug. 31, 2020:CNBC reports TikTok has chosen a buyer, with an expected sale price of $20 billion - $30 billion.

Sept. 3, 2020: With uncertainty over whether a buyer will be able to acquire TikTok's algorithm, and debate mounting over how that affects the value of the company, numerous outlets negotiations are likely to slow as the Chinese government increases its involvement.

Sept. 13, 2020: Microsoft says in a blog post that "ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok's US operations to Microsoft." The company says it would have made "significant changes" to ensure security, privacy, online safety and combatting disinformation.

Sept. 14, 2020: Oracle confirms that it has been selected by ByteDance to become a "trusted technology provider" with TikTok. The company says the proposal was submitted by ByteDance to the Treasury Department over the weekend. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says on CNBC that the proposal includes making TikTok-global a U.S. headquartered company with 20,000 new jobs.

Mnuchin adds that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is reviewing the proposal this week for national security implications, and will make a recommendation to the president, who will then review the proposal.

tami@dot.la

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

Derek Jeter’s Sports Trading Card Company Brings in $10M

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

sports trading cards
Arena Club /Andria Moore

Sports trading card platform Arena Club has raised $10 million in Series A funding.

Co-founded by CEO Brian Lee and Hall of Fame Yankees player Derek Jeter, Arena Club launched its digital showroom in September. Through the platform, sports fans can buy, sell, trade and display their card collections. Using computer vision and machine learning, Arena Club allows fans to grade and authenticate their cards, which can be stored in the company’s vault or delivered in protective “slabs.” Arena Club intends to use the new cash to expand these functions and scale its operations.

The new funding brings Arena Club’s total amount raised to $20 million. M13, defy.vc, Lightspeed Ventures, Elysian Park Ventures and BAM Ventures contributed to the round.

“Our team is thankful for the group of investors—led by M13, who see the bright future of the trading card hobby and our platform,” Lee said in a statement. “I have long admired M13 and the value they bring to early-stage startups.”

M13’s co-founder Courtney Reum, who formed the early-stage consumer technology venture firm in 2016 alongside his brother Carter Reum, will join Arena Club’s board. Reum has been eyeing the trading card space since 2020 when he began investing in what was once just a childhood hobby.

The sports trading card market surged in 2020 as fans turned to the hobby after the pandemic brought live events to a standstill. Since then, prices have come down, though demand remains high. And investors are still betting on trading card companies, with companies like Collectors bringing in $100 million earlier this year. Fanatics, which sells athletic collectibles and trading cards, reached a $31 billion valuation after raising $700 million earlier this week. On the blockchain, Tom Brady’s NFT company Autograph lets athletes sell digital collectibles directly to fans.

As for Arena Club, the company is looking to cement itself as a digital card show.

“Providing users with a digital card show allows us to use our first-class technology to give collectors from all over the world the luxury of being able to get the full trading card show experience at their fingertips,” Jeter said in a statement.

Hosts Who Rent From “Airbnb-Friendly” LA Apartments May Not Make a Profit

Amrita Khalid
Amrita Khalid is a tech journalist based in Los Angeles, and has written for Quartz, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Inc. Magazine and number of other publications. She got her start in Washington, D.C., covering Congress for CQ-Roll Call. You can send tips or pitches to amrita@dot.la or reach out to her on Twitter at @askhalid.
LA house

L.A.’s lax enforcement of Airbnbs has led to an surge of illegal short-term rentals — even four years after the city passed a regulation to crack down on such practices. But what if hosts lived in a building that welcomed Airbnb guests and short-term rentals?

That’s the idea behind Airbnb’s new push to expand short-term rental offerings. The company is partnering with a number of corporate landlords that agreed to offer “Airbnb-friendly” apartment buildings, reported The Wall Street Journal last week. According to the report, the new service will feature more than 175 buildings managed by Equity Residential, Greystar Real Estate Partners LLC and 10 other companies that have agreed to clear more than 175 properties nationwide for short-term rentals.

But prospective hosts in Los Angeles who decide to rent apartments from Airbnb’s list of more than a dozen “friendly” buildings in the city likely won’t earn enough to break even due to a combination of high rents, taxes and city restrictions on short-term rentals. Rents on one-bedroom apartments in most of the partnered buildings listed soared well over $3,000 a month. Only a few studios were available under the $2,000 price range. If a host were to rent a one bedroom apartment with a monthly rent of $2,635 (which amounts to $31,656 annually), they would have to charge well over the $194 average price per night for Los Angeles (which amounts to $23,280 per year) according to analytics platform AllTheRooms.

Either way, residents who rent one of these Airbnb friendly apartments still have to apply for a permit through the City of Los Angeles in order to host on Airbnb.

“[..Airbnb-friendly buildings] seems like a good initiative. However, from a quick look, it seems that given the rent, Airbnb revenue wouldn’t be enough to cover all expenses if the host follows the city’s policy,” says Davide Proserpio, assistant professor of marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business.

In addition, since L.A.’s 120-day cap on short-term rentals still applies to the buildings on Airbnb’s listing platform, that greatly limits the number of longer-term guests a resident can host. Not to mention, some of the buildings that Airbnb lists have even shorter limits – The Milano Lofts in DTLA for example only allows residents to host 90 nights a year.

Airbnb’s calculations of host earnings may be greatly misleading as well, given that the estimate doesn’t include host expenses, taxes, cleaning fees or individual building restrictions. For example, Airbnb estimates that a resident of a $3,699 one bedroom apartment at the Vinz in Hollywood that hosts 7 nights a month can expect $1,108 a month in revenue if they host year-round. But the Vinz only allows hosts to rent 90 days a year, which greatly limits the potential for subletters and a consistent income stream.

Keep in mind too that since the apartment will have to serve as the host’s “primary residence”, hosts will have to live there six months out of the year. All of which is to say, it’s unclear how renting an apartment in an “Airbnb-friendly” building makes hosting easier — especially in a city where illegal short-term rentals already seem to be the norm.

https://twitter.com/askhalid

The Streamy Awards Prove that Online Creators and Traditional Media Are Still Disconnected

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

tiktok influencers around a trophy ​
Andria Moore /Charli D'Amelio/Addison Rae/JiDion

Every year, the Streamy Awards, which is considered the top award show within the creator economy, reveals which creators are capturing the largest audiences. This past Sunday, the event, held at The Beverly Hilton, highlighted some of the biggest names in the influencer game, chief among them Mr. Beast and Charli D’Amelio. It had all the trappings of a traditional award show—extravagant gowns, quippy acceptance speeches and musical interludes. But, as TikTok creator Adam Rose told The Washington Post, the Streamys still lacks the legitimacy of traditional award shows.

Read moreShow less
RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending