TikTok has been targeted by the Trump administration as it is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance.
Angela Lang / CNET
Austin Benji got involved at TikTok after it was revealed on Sunday that Oracle had signed a deal to prevent the short-form video app from being banned in the United States.
In a video he shared with his 310,600 followers, Benji, who identifies himself as politically conservative, points out that Larry Ellison, the chairman of Oracle, is also a conservative who supports President Donald Trump.
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"This is a big win for conservative TikTok users as we've been banned from shadows, shadows, and shadows again for the past few years," says Benji in the video. "So folks, TikTok is not going to be banned and I'm incredibly happy that Oracle won this bidding war." (The shadow ban involves suppressing or removing content without notifying a user and is a constant complaint on social media platforms. TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the shadow ban.)
TikTok's deal with Oracle, which sells enterprise software, has generated mixed reaction from users of the app due to Ellison's ties to the Trump administration. Safra Catz, the company's CEO, also has administrative ties, having served on Trump's transition team. But one thing TikToker is happy about from all political directions: the expectation that the deal will save the app.
The short-form video app was filled with enthusiastic videos after the deal was announced. Some TikTokers performed joyful dance moves, a favorite of users. Others just screamed happily when they announced that the app would not be banned.
The online celebration underscores TikToker's commitment to the app, which is used by an estimated 100 million Americans, even though the winning dances may be premature. Little is known about the deal. Oracle appears to be offering technology services to address US national security concerns over TikTok, owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance. The company will also reportedly acquire a stake in TikTok, but will not acquire the entire operation. It's unclear what happens to the TikTok algorithm, the code responsible for keeping users excited by providing videos that suit their tastes.
The expected structure of the business does not appear to be in line with the requirements set out by the Trump administration in two executive orders. An August 6th ordinance bans American companies from doing business with ByteDance or its subsidiaries, citing national security concerns. TikTok could effectively be banned on September 20th if a deal fails. A later order, dated August 14, directed ByteDance to divest "all interests and rights" in assets and property in support of TikTok's US operations by November 12. The White House did not answer questions about the missions.
The proposed deal between TikTok and Oracle has yet to be evaluated by the US government. The deal will be reviewed this week by a committee overseeing foreign investment in the U.S. and then making recommendations to the president, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday morning.
"We will be reviewing with their technical teams and our technical teams to see if they can provide the presentations we need," said Mnuchin of Oracle's role in the business.
He told the business news network that the deal included a commitment to create a global TikTok business headquartered in the United States that would employ 20,000 people.
The deal left some observers, including former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos, under-challenged. "A deal where Oracle would host the hosting with no source code or significant operational changes would not address any of the legitimate concerns about TikTok," tweeted Stamos, now at Stanford University.
Tiffany Li, a technology attorney and visiting professor at Boston University School of Law, said it was likely that TikTok would continue to operate in the United States.
Executive orders, she said, can be revoked, amended, or reinterpreted by the Trump administration.
"Now that a Trump-friendly company has taken this position, I would bet there is high potential for a situation where TikTok won't be banned," she said.
The deal doesn't alleviate national security concerns related to TikTok as ByteDance retains control of the app, Li added. The Trump administration said in its orders that TikTok had raised national security concerns because it could be used by the Chinese government to spy on U.S. federal employees.
Some Republican lawmakers are already calling on the government to reject the deal.
"Whatever the reason, the evidence available only allows one conclusion: ByteDance has no intention of relinquishing ultimate control of TikTok," said Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, in a statement. "As the parent company of TikTok, ByteDance will continue to be subject to Chinese laws that put American data at risk."
TikTok has cracked down on allegations that the app posed a national security threat and vowed never to share US data with the Chinese government. At the same time, the company believes the partnership with Oracle will resolve concerns about the app.
"This proposal would allow us to help our community of 100 million people in the US who love TikTok for connection and entertainment, as well as the hundreds of thousands of small business owners and creators who rely on TikTok for livelihoods and meaningful building build, continue to support careers, "TikTok said in a statement.
However, Oracle's political ties to the Trump administration are already rubbing some TikTok users in the wrong direction. In February, Ellison hosted a fundraiser for Trump, which sparked a backlash from some Oracle employees.
A TikToker using the handle @lord_tomothais said in a video that they thought it was "lazy". Microsoft lost the bid. The user, who has more than 152,000 followers on the app, has expressed support for Joe Biden, Trump's Democratic rival.
"They'll likely choke this platform to death. It's likely to cause bleeding, and we'll see," @lord_tomothais says. "At the moment there is no ban on TikTok … but we'll see how they ruin this application."
Other US users didn't seem to care who won the TikTok bid as long as the app stayed online.
Korie Mckennedy, who has 2 million followers on his TikTok account @koriee_me, posted a video doing an energetic, happy dance to pop music.
“Oracle comes with the clutch,” TikTok user Mckennedy wrote in the caption of his video. "I got hype when I saw the news."