New Technologies

Tik Tok algorithm is not for sale

Tik Tok

There are days until the deadline the US government gave ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, to sell Western TikTok to a US company. On September 15, either TikTok is in the hands of a US company or TikTok closes in the American country, according to the US president. However, the agreement seems increasingly complicated, from ByteDance they warn that the recommendation algorithm (and main attraction of TikTok) will not be sold to anyone.

The sale of TikTok to an American company has a history. It all started with accusations by the United States that it was a spy tool due to the influence of the Chinese government on companies in the country. Consequently, they decreed that for the social network to continue operating in the United States, it should be bought by an American company and that it host the data of its users in the territory of the American country. And potential buyers emerged: Microsoft (now retired), Oracle, Walmart and even Twitter was rumored.

However, from China they also responded to this movement. In recent weeks, a change in the laws of the Asian country prevented companies from exporting certain goods, including intellectual property in the form of artificial intelligence. This is where the TikTok algorithm comes in, an algorithm that ByteDance in principle could not sell without the permission of the Chinese government.

Putting the pieces together, it makes sense for ByteDance to say that they are not going to sell their algorithm to anyone, sources have told the South China Morning Post. As they explain, ByteDance has notified both the United States authorities and potential buyers of Western TikTok. If this condition is decisive in the sale of TikTok, there could be no agreement for next Tuesday, September 15, and TikTok should shut down its operations in the United States. This, of course, if there is no last minute surprise with an agreement in extremis or a postponement of the United States to its veto.

ByteDance, however, doesn't seem to mind the TikTok buyer creating their own recommendation algorithm. This would not violate the new export rules imposed by China on Chinese companies, as they would simply be selling the service to their US users and not the algorithm developed behind the content recommendations.

The controversial TikTok sale could be even more complex. Reuters reported on Saturday that the Chinese government could oppose the transaction. It is not an ordinary sale, there is a symbolism behind it that the United States is imposing its strength by directly getting involved in the sale. And China seems to want to impose its own too, forcing ByteDance to shut down TikTok in the United States rather than give in to pressure from the United States.

The timeline with the deadline only adds pressure to all parties involved in this matter. ByteDance aims to be the worst stop of all parties, finding itself in the middle of a trade and political war between China and the United States. Despite all that is known on the matter, if the deal is finally carried out, it will be a surprise.

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