Home Technology TikTok’s sale may not include its magical content algorithm

TikTok’s sale may not include its magical content algorithm

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The Trump administration is not a big fan of the Chinese government, and apart from using an ugly trade war to stifle the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer Huawei, it has now also shifted its focus towards TikTok. The social media app that is proving popular throughout the world and has been used by millions of Americans on a daily basis, may soon be banned in the US of A.

The US has a fear that the Chinese government might use the data generated from the app against them (even though there is still no evidence of this), which is why the Trump regime has announced a ban on the social media network. TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is scrambling to find a US buyer to try and keep their operations in the US and many other international territories afloat. So far, the likes of Microsoft and Oracle have shown interest in wanting to acquire these operations.

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Not too excited by the potential loss of intellectual property from its borders, the Chinese government has since passed a rule prohibiting the export of personalized content recommendation algorithms (as reported in The Wall Street Journal), meaning that even if the internal TikTok business were to be acquired by another company, it wouldn’t be able to see the various algorithms which are part of the company’s secret sauce, be sold off. Of course, the clever minds at Microsoft and Oracle may be able to try and replicate something for their versions of TikTok (as ByteDance would still own the rights to the app in China and many other countries like Africa), but according to a new report from some experts, the algorithm is likely so complex and good at what it does, that no attempt to even try and mimic its behavior is likely to have the same effect.

So, what does this mean for the future of TikTok in the US? Well, it’s unclear. With Trump’s threat of an outright ban by September 15 still on the cards and interested parties unlikely to buy any part of TikTok without its magical algorithm, I guess we’ll have to wait and see whether the US government changes their tune. Or we could see a significantly different TikTok in use by large parts of the world.

Last Updated: September 10, 2020

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