The White House is preparing to force Chinese internet giant ByteDance to shed the U.S. operations of TikTok, as potential buyers, including Microsoft Corp, are already in talks to buy the popular short video app, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The move would be the culmination of U.S. national security concerns over the safety of the personal data that TikTok handles. It would represent a major blow for the Beijing-based company, which became one of only a handful of truly global Chinese conglomerates thanks to TikTok’s commercial success.
It is was not immediately clear how the separation would happen and what ByteDance would do with the rest of TikTok’s global operations. An announcement on ByteDance’s plans for TikTok could come as early as Friday, the sources said, requesting anonymity because the matter is confidential.
Microsoft is one of the companies that have been in exploratory talks to buy TikTok, one of the sources said. While the Redmond, Washington-based company already owns professional social media network LinkedIn, it would face fewer regulatory hurdles in acquiring TikTok than its more direct competitors, such as FaceBook Inc, the source said.
ByteDance, Microsoft and the U.S. Treasury Department, which chairs the government panel that has been reviewing ByteDance’s ownership of TikTok, declined to comment.
“While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok,” TikTok said in a statement.
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Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Wednesday that TikTok was under a national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and that he would be making a recommendation to President Donald Trump this week.
“We are looking at TikTok, we may be banning TikTok, we maybe doing some other things or a couple of options, but a lot of things are happening,” Trump told reporters on Friday.
As relations between the United States and China deteriorate over trade, Hong Kong’s autonomy, cyber security and the spread of the novel coronavirus, TikTok has emerged as a flashpoint in the dispute between the world’s two largest economies.
Last week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs unanimously passed a bill that would bar U.S. federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices. It will be taken up by the full Senate for a vote. The House of Representatives has already voted for a similar measure.
ByteDance has proactively been considering a range of options for TikTok amid pressure from the United States to relinquish control of the app, which allows users to create short videos with special effects and has become wildly popular with U.S. teenagers.
ByteDance has received a proposal from some of its investors, including Sequoia and General Atlantic, to transfer majority ownership of TikTok to them, Reuters reported on Wednesday. The proposal values TikTok at about $50 billion, but some ByteDance executives believe the app is worth more than that.
ByteDance has also fielded acquisition interest in TikTok from other companies and investment firms, Reuters has reported.
ByteDance acquired Shanghai-based video app Musical.ly in a $1 billion deal in 2017 and relaunched it as TikTok the following year. ByteDance did not seek approval for the acquisition from CFIUS, which reviews deals for potential national security risks. Reuters reported last year that CFIUS had opened an investigation into TikTok.
U.S. labels TikTok a ‘national security threat’
The United States has been increasingly scrutinizing app developers over the personal data they handle, especially if some of it involves U.S. military or intelligence personnel. Ordering the divestment of TikTok would not be the first time the White House has taken action over such concerns.
Earlier this year, Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd sold Grindr LLC, a popular gay dating app it bought in 2016, for $620 million after being ordered by CFIUS to divest.
In 2018, CFIUS forced China’s Ant Financial to scrap plans to buy MoneyGram International Inc over concerns about the safety of data that could identify U.S. citizens.
ByteDance was valued at as much as $140 billion earlier this year when one of its shareholders, Cheetah Mobile, sold a small stake in a private deal, Reuters has reported. The startup’s investors include SoftBank Group Corp.
Pompeo says comments on banning Chinese social media apps like TikTok is to protect U.S. national security
The bulk of its revenue comes from advertising on apps under its Chinese operations including Douyin – a Chinese version of TikTok – and news aggregator app Jinri Toutiao, as well as video-streaming app Xigua and Pipixia, an app for jokes and humorous videos.
Some of the company’s other overseas apps include work collaboration tool Lark and music streaming app Resso.
TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, a former Walt Disney Co executive, said in a blog post on Wednesday that the company was committed to following U.S. laws, and was allowing experts to observe its moderation policies and examine the code that drives its algorithms.
(Reporting by Echo Wang in New York and Alexandra Alper and David Shepardson in Washington, D.C.; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Diane Craft, Aurora Ellis and Daniel Wallis)
© 2020 Reuters
Hospitality workers urge Ottawa to put employees first in any COVID-19 related bailout – CBC.ca
Canada’s hard-hit hospitality industry is asking for more help from government to survive the economic impact of COVID-19. But even as hotel owners are seeking more aid from Ottawa, some workers say they’re not making good use of relief programs already out there.
Hotel workers staged demonstrations in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver this week, to draw attention to the plight of an industry that has been hard-hit by the ongoing pandemic.
Hotel bookings are down by 90 per cent in some cases, which has created a drastic drop in demand for workers.
The industry was effectively shut down just as many others were in the early days of the pandemic. The Hotel Association of Canada says most hotels did their best to maintain staffing levels, hoping for a return of paying customers.
Some took advantage of an emergency government program known as the Canada emergency wage susidy, or CEWS, which paid up to 75 per cent of an employee’s salary, as long as they remained on the payroll.
Room attendant Leonora Mulholland lost her job at a downtown Toronto hotel in March when the pandemic struck, but she says her employer eventually brought her back on once CEWS began.
But it didn’t last long. She was laid off again in August.
After 21 years working for the same hotel, she questions why her loyalty wasn’t reciprocated by her employer.
WATCH | Hotel worker Leonora Mulholland explains what workers want:
Mulholland was one of about two dozen hospitality workers at a physically distanced demonstration in Toronto this week asking the government to step in and force hotels to use the wage subsidy to hire back like her back.
“I feel insecure,” she said. “Who knows what’s going to happen? How long this pandemic is going to be? We don’t know.”
Susie Grynol, president and CEO of the Hotel Association of Canada, says the industry is sympathetic to the plight of workers, but the industry shut itself down in the interest of public health, which is why the sector needs the government to step up with more support so that hotels can survive long enough to keep employing their workers long term.
“It’s put our industry on life support,” she said in an interview. “We missed the summer season. We’re heading into the off season and we’re not projected to recover until next summer, which means we’re not even halfway through this.”
Many hotels took advantage of CEWS, but recent changes mean the government now pays only about two thirds of the payroll costs, leaving hotels with next to no revenue on the hook for paying one third of the salaries for workers they don’t need.
“The changes to the wage subsidy program has meant that we can’t keep on every employee that we had previously,” Grynol said. “That means that some of our inactive workers are now going to be laid off permanently.”
In the recent throne speech, the government gave a vague promise of more help coming for the industry, but was short on details.
Grynol says the industry is asking Ottawa to roll back CEWS to its original terms and help the industry secure access to credit because loans from banks are drying up. And, if possible, they would love some help on fixed cost items such as property taxes.
“We’re hoping that we are going to see some support from government so that we can stabilize and ultimately bring back all of our employees,” she said.
The organizers of this week’s demonstrations say they agree that the industry needs more targeted help, but they’re wary of that help coming as a bailout for hotel operators that may do little to help the rank and file.
“Our concern is that any sector relief that’s provided to the industry would go straight to the pockets of the multimillion dollar corporations or the owners of the hotels,” said Shelli Sareen, secretary treasurer of Unite Here, a labour union representing 300,000 workers across the U.S. and Canada.
A blank cheque without accountability, “won’t benefit our members or the hospitality workers [and] frontline workers that have been most heavily impacted by the pandemic,” Sareen said.
Mulholland knows that the hotels themselves must be feeling the pain as well. But whatever the plan to help the industry is, she hopes the workers on the bottom like her get remembered along with the owners at the top.
“When they apply, the employers should put the workers first,” she said. “Not just apply, get the money, and keep it to themselves.”
Questions remain regarding Alberta's new COVID-19 testing pilot: expert – CBC News
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COVID outbreaks reported at Jasper Park Lodge, Calgary Superstore and long-term care facility – CTV Toronto
Jasper Park Lodge is doing a deep clean of the entire hotel and doing “extensive contact tracing” after seven employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Officials say none of the employees who tested positive have been at the hotel for the past seven days or more.
“Alberta Health Services has confirmed that no hotel guests or visitors have been impacted,” read a statement from the company.
“Health officials advise that risk of transmission is low for those who have not been in close contact with these individuals.”
That is one of six outbreaks announced by the province on Friday.
Two new outbreaks were announced in Calgary, one at Revere Mount Royal Long Term Care Home, where 19 cases are active, and at the Real Canadian Superstore in the 3600 block of Westwinds Drive N.E., which has 11 cases.
Six cases were reported at Abstract Dance Academy in Chestermere, all of which have now recovered, and there are 14 cases at the RCMP detachment in Grande Prairie, which are all active.
And there are 15 active cases at the New Life Pentecostal Church in Lethbridge.
An ongoing outbreak at Foothills hospital in Calgary also saw three more healthcare workers test positive.
The province announced 432 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, which brought the number of active cases in Alberta to 3,651.
Daily and active tallies have set pandemic highs for three and five days straight, respectively.
The bulk of Alberta’s active infections are still in the Edmonton zone with 1,751 cases, but the Calgary zone is closing in on the capital region with 1,307 cases.
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