The Technology 202: Here are six questions about the tentative deal between Trump and TikTok

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Trump told reporters that he had “approved the deal in concept.” 

But Trump’s statements about the deal generated a host of new questions. 

Here’s what we’ll be tracking over the coming days and weeks. 

1. Is this a political win for Trump? 

“Conceptually, I think it’s a great deal for America,” Trump told reporters on Saturday night. 

Trump is claiming victory because such a deal would create more American jobs and tax revenue. The president also said the agreement would ensure the security of Americans’ data. 

But the latest deal is a significant step back from the full-on sale to an American company Trump originally pushed. Oracle confirmed in a statement that its investment with Walmart would account for 20 percent of TikTok Global. 

Oracle said this morning ByteDance will have “no ownership” in the new entity. 

Upon creation of TikTok Global, Oracle/Walmart will make their investment and the TikTok Global shares will be distributed to their owners, Americans will be the majority and ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global,” Oracle executive vice president Ken Glueck said in a statement.

Trump wants to position the deal as an example of his tough stance on China — an issue he’s sought to elevate in the final weeks before the presidential election amid broad criticism of his handling of the novel coronavirus. His ability to crack down on TikTok heavily hinges on brokering an arrangement that would cut out major Chinese corporations’ interests.

And Democrats have already criticized Trump for allowing Oracle — whose executives have been public allies and donors to the administration — to be the company’s trusted “technology partner.”

2. What is this education fund that Trump announced? 

Trump created mass confusion on Saturday evening when he told reporters that the deal would include a $5 billion education fund. 

We’re going to be setting up a very large fund for the education of American youth,” he said. 

But ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, said it was unaware of the fund, according to Reuters. “The company has been committed to investing in the education field, and plans to work with partners and global shareholders to launch online classroom projects based on AI and video technology for students around the world,” ByteDance said on social media.

Oracle said the companies will pay more than $5 billion in new tax dollars to the U.S. Treasury. 

The companies’ statement made no mention of such an education fund, but it did say TikTok Global, along with some of its American investors, will create an educational initiative “to develop and deliver an AI-driven online video curriculum to teach children from inner cities to the suburbs, a variety of courses from basic reading and math to science, history and computer engineering.”

3. Is TikTok moving to Texas? 

Trump announced the new entity the deal would create would “most likely be incorporated in Texas” and the firm would “be hiring at least 25,000 people.” 

TikTok has long been promising to bring more jobs to the United States as it attempts to curry favor with U.S. politicians, and it has emphasized that it’s hiring outside of typical tech hubs. But this was the first mention of making Texas its home base. The company currently has its U.S. headquarters in Culver City, Calif., near Los Angeles.

Oracle’s statement said the new entity would be headquartered in the United States, but it didn’t specify which state. 

4. How will Oracle steward Americans’ data? 

Oracle said all American TikTok data would be moved to its cloud infrastructure systems, explaining its technology “uniquely eliminates the risk of foreign governments spying on American users or trying to influence them with disinformation.”

But that still leaves open the question of how Oracle will respond to law enforcement requests from the U.S. government — an issue other consumer tech companies including Apple, Facebook and Google have very publicly grappled with. 

The company said it would comply with all U.S. privacy regulations, which are currently extremely limited. 

Oracle’s takeover of Americans’ data is likely to spark a host of new privacy concerns, especially given the company’s track record as a data broker that consumer privacy advocates have previously criticized. 

5. What about WeChat?

The popular messaging app also avoided a potential ban from the App Store, at least temporarily. A federal court granted a preliminary injunction halting the Trump administration’s planned ban of the Chinese app in response to a lawsuit saying the ban would harm consumers’ First Amendment rights, Jeanne Whalen reports. 

“Certainly the government’s overarching national-security interest is significant. But on this record — while the government has established that China’s activities raise significant national security concerns — it has put in scant little evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all U.S. users addresses those concerns,” the judge added.

Trump had targeted the Tencent-owned app over similar national security concerns. The court battle over WeChat could have significant implications for any future attempts to ban apps in the United States, as these moves by Trump were widely seen as unprecedented. 

6. What does all of this mean for the future of technology relations between the United States and China? 

The showdown over TikTok and WeChat has significantly strained relations between the global powers at a time when there’s already intense competition in technology fields such as artificial intelligence, quantum and 5G wireless. 

China threatened U.S. companies with sanctions following the Trump administration’s announcement that it would ban downloads of WeChat and TikTok, Gerry Shih reported. There were broad concerns that Google and Apple could face retaliation from Beijing and be added to its “unreliable entities list,” which would prohibit companies from investing in China or trading with the Chinese market. 

The outcome of the saga will heavily depend on China, as Beijing also needs to sign off on whatever deal the Trump administration strikes with TikTok. 

Our top tabs

Democrats raised more than $100 million online following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The influx of small-dollar donations set a record as the most that Act Blue, a nonprofit Democratic fundraising site, had ever received in an hour and in a day, Kim Lyons at The Verge reports. It’s a much larger spike than the platform saw even during the last night of the Democratic National Convention, when it hauled in $4.3 million. 

“Amid the devastating loss of Justice Ginsburg, it is inspiring to see people taking action to honor her legacy,” ActBlue executive director Erin Hill said in a statement to The Verge.

Hearings for the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh also drew big support for the site. Republican leadership has said it intends to nominate Ginsburg’s replacement before the election, which could spur more Democratic donations.

The Trump campaign also launched an email fundraising campaign shortly after Ginsburg’s death. 

The next Supreme Court justice could play a key role in privacy decisions.

The court has only recently started taking on the ways privacy, police searches and self-incrimination have been upended by computers, smartphones and other digital technology, Joseph Marks reports. As those issues take a spotlight in public debate, more cases will hit the courts in the coming decades.

“There are huge cases coming from a cybersecurity perspective and how technology affects the 4th and 5th Amendments and this vacancy could very well make a difference,” Jeffrey Vagle, a Georgia State University law professor who focuses on cybersecurity and technology, told Joe. “These all tie together in how we think about computers and how much they’re like everything else.”  

While tech has been more neutral ground for the courts than hot-button issues like abortion, there have been close decisions in recent years.

Twitter says it will investigate potential racial bias in the algorithms powering its photo previews feature.

The feature drew outcry over the weekend after a user demonstrated in a test that the algorithm seemed to always select a White face for the preview box, regardless of prominence in the photograph, Rachel Kraus at Mashable reports.

“Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing,” Twitter spokeswoman Liz Kelly told Mashable. “But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’re looking into this and will continue to share what we learn and what actions we take.”

A viral tweet by programmer Tony Arcieri showed that in two separate images that stacked portraits of Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former President Barack Obama, the preview box always showed McConnell regardless of the order of the portraits.

Arcieri experimented with other variables:

Some suspected that other factors, such as photo brightness and whether or not the subject was smiling may have played a role. Producer Kim Sherrell:

Twitter’s chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, says the product “needs continuous improvement.”

Rant and rave

Tech leaders also wrote tributes online to Ginsburg’s legacy.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg:

Emerson Collective’s Laurene Powell Jobs:

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg:

Apple chief executive Tim Cook:

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella:

The digital race to 2020

Facebook has helped over 2.5 million people register to vote, surpassing 2016 and 2018 numbers. 

The social media platform also plans to continue raising awareness around voting this week by added deadlines for voter registration to its Voting Information Center, the company announced in a news release. The online tool will also help voters learning more about early voting polling details. 

The company is hoping to reach 4 million voters by Election Day.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is also increasing its efforts to fact-check misleading election information. It’s supporting a project led by the International Fact-Checking Network that will fact-check misinformation and disinformation in both English and Spanish on the app from now through inauguration day.

Other social media companies have launched similar efforts.



  • The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing, “Revisiting the Need for Federal Data Privacy Legislation,” on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on social medias role in radicalizing Americans on Thursday at 11 a.m.
  • New Americas Open Technology Institute will hold a virtual panel exploring how Internet platforms are addressing the spread of election-related misinformation on Oct. 1 at 1:30 p.m.

Before you log off

To remember the life and legacy of Ginsburg, here’s a compilation of interviews, speeches and poignant moments in her life.

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