Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Wants to Buy TikTok

Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he is assembling a group of investors to buy the Chinese-owned TikTok social media video streaming app.

“This should be owned by U.S. businesses,” Mnuchin told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” business news show on March 14 . “There’s no way that the Chinese would ever let a U.S. company own something like this in China.”

The move comes a day after the U.S. House of Representatives, in a bipartisan 352-65, vote ruled the social media app’s U.S. operations must be sold or face a ban. TikTok, which is reportedly used by 170 million mostly younger Americans, poses a national security threat, according to lawmakers.

Whether such a sale ever occurs hinges on China’s willingness to sell. Beijing a year ago said it would oppose any foreign sale of TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance Ltd.

The U.S. government’s move to extricate China’s control of TikTok follows similar efforts by the former Trump Administration. Yet now the former president has reversed himself, arguing a sale of TikTok would hurt younger people.

Speaking March 11 on the same “Squawk Box” program, Trump agreed TikTok posed a security threat, but said banning it would alienate the platform’s younger users.

“Frankly, there are a lot of people on TikTok that love it,” Trump said. “There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it.”

The current GOP presidential nominee also contends that banning TikTok would empower Facebook and other social media platforms.

“The thing I don’t like is that without TikTok, you can make Facebook bigger,” Trump said. “And I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people, along with a lot of the media.”

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Trump Administration to Officially Ban TikTok, WeChat in the U.S.

Following months of threats, the U.S. Department of Commerce Sept. 18 announced it would suspend domestic access to Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat beginning Sept. 20. The apps are collectively used by about 100 million Americans for social media videos and communications.

The Trump Administration contends the apps pose a national security threat by accessing U.S. users’ personal data that is stored on Chinese servers and accessed by Chinese security personnel, including the military.

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“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

Specifically, rollout of Trump’s previously-announced executive orders will restrict the transfer or processing of payments through the WeChat network. It would also bar third-party U.S. firms from offering ISP or peering access to WeChat.

“At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations,” Ross said.

With TikTok operations in the U.S. set to be acquired by Oracle, formal restrictions on the social media app’s use domestically won’t go into effect until Nov. 12. As a result, the only immediate change to TikTok in the U.S. after Sept. 20 is user access to updated app features and maintenance.

The mining of user information across digital apps is not unique to TikTok or WeChat. It is common practice for most digital firms, including Google and Facebook. But those two companies are American and thus not subject to Trump’s ongoing trade spat with China.

Some observers contend Trump’s targeting of TikTok is personal, stemming in part to media reports the app — through third parties — was responsible for the lower-than-expected turnout at Trump’s June campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla.

“A lot of [this ban] just feels to me  to be improvisational,” Adam Segal, a cybersecurity official at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The New York Times.

Netflix Names Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice to Board of Directors

Netflix is a global brand seeking insight from a former senior member of the United Nations.

The SVOD pioneer March 28 announced the appointment of Susan E. Rice, a former U.S. National Security Advisor and Ambassador to the United Nations under President Obama, to its board of directors.

Rice is currently a Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow at American University’s School of International Service, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Contributing Opinion Writer for The New York Times.

“For decades, Ambassador Rice has tackled difficult, complex global issues with intelligence, integrity and insight and we look forward to benefiting from her experience and wisdom,” Netflix co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings said in a statement.

From 2013-2017, Rice directed the National Security Council staff, chaired the Cabinet-level National Security Principals committee, providing daily national security briefing to Obama, and was responsible for the formulation, coordination and implementation of all aspects of administration’s foreign and national security policy, intelligence and military efforts. From 2009 to 2013, she served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and as a cabinet member.

Previously, Ambassador Rice held positions as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and as a Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton, Senior Director, and Director on the National Security Council staff.  She was a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC from 2002-2008.

Rice began her career as a management consultant with McKinsey and Company in Toronto, Canada. She has served on numerous boards, including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Bureau of National Affairs, National Democratic Institute, and the US Fund for UNICEF.

Rice received her Master’s degree (M.Phil.) and Ph.D (D.Phil.) in International Relations from New College, Oxford University, England, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and her BA in History with honors from Stanford University in 1986.  In 2017, French President Francois Hollande presented Ambassador Rice with the Award of Commander, the Legion of Honor of France, for her contributions to Franco-American relations.