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ByteDance says it will abide by China's new export laws

TikTok TikTok … the sound of a sale slipping away?

ByteDance, the Chinese owner of controversial social network TikTok, has signalled it will comply with China's new technology export control laws.

The company used one of its Chinese networks – Toutiao – to say it "will strictly abide" by Chinese law.

As The Register reported yesterday, China updated its export control laws to include "personalized information push service technology based on data analysis" and "artificial intelligence interactive interface technology". TikTok is thought to use both, which would complicate the sale of its US operations to either a Microsoft/Walmart consortium or an Oracle-led bid.

China has not been so blunt as to declare that the rule changes will prevent TikTok from offloading any of its offshore operations, an outcome that the Trump administration has made compulsory in the USA on grounds that TikTok exposes US citizens' personal data to the Chinese Communist Party. The USA has also insisted that any sale results in TikTok being run by an American company using all-American security arrangements.

Might those requirements stretch to replacing Chinese AI and personalization code? With President Trump currently focused on violent protesters, it may be some time before his administration offers further guidance.

But it may not be long before a TikTok sale is announced: CNBC reports that a deal could be announced in the next day, with the Microsoft/Walmart bid fancied to emerge the winner and to shell out $20bn to $30bn for the privilege of operating TikTok in the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Mining TikTok to help target ads appears to be all bidders' main interest. Microsoft has decent consumer data from its gaming products, but Walmart and Oracle are less well endowed. ®

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