TikTok sale saga may play into Facebook’s hands

By Elaine Moore, Financial Times 

American teenagers distraught at the idea of losing access to TikTok have spent the past couple of weeks using the video-sharing app to plead their case. This being TikTok, home of chaotic parodies and memes, they are all a send-up. One girl sways seductively while pretending to add bricks to a Mexican border wall in order to get on President Donald Trump’s good side. Another flashes a picture of her empty bank account to show she has no data worth protecting.  It is no use. 
The US still fears the app’s Chinese parent company ByteDance poses a threat to national security. TikTok’s efforts to prove otherwise by installing an American former Disney executive as its boss and telling the New York Times that ByteDance is not a Beijing-based company because it is incorporated in the Cayman Islands have failed. Last Friday, Mr Trump ordered ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US operations within 90 days or face a shutdown.

The battle for TikTok is really about data harvesting. The app’s algorithm is worth fighting over. It took TikTok less than an hour to understand that I didn’t want to watch tweens falling off skateboards and would much rather spend time in the cosy world of sloth-Tok (videos of sloths) and “cottagecore”, where people in twee dresses bake bread.