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TikTok’s Future Remains Unclear After Walmart And Oracle Win Bid For Partial Ownership

President Donald Trump has been battling with video-sharing social networking platform TikTok for months now. Trump has claimed that the Chinese-owned app, run by company ByteDance, is giving personal user information to the Chinese government upon request; a claim that ByteDance and TikTok has denied multiple times on claims that the US branch of TikTok is run in the US and barely connected to the offices in China. 

Recently, the president demanded for a full sale of TikTok to an American owner, and in August he gave ByteDance 90  days to sell or they would face a countrywide shutdown. He then issued twin executive orders that would ban transactions from the US with ByteDance, but in late August the company announced a potential sale of the app.

The tentative deal from ByteDance was made over this past weekend after the Trump administration announced that if an acceptable deal was not met, TikTok would be removed from the app store starting this weekend and lasting until November when the app would be fully banned.

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ByteDance announced they would create a US subsidiary called TikTok Global which would be part-owned by the US entities of Walmart and Oracle. Four of the company’s five main board members would be American and the fifth would likely be the ByteDance founder himself. After this announcement Trump delayed the app store ban by a week. 

The proposed structure of this agreement is still unclear, as it seems ByteDance announced this deal as a means of getting Trump to ease up on his pressures to ban the app. Oracle and Walmart have stated that they would own 20% of the company while ByteDance would own 80%, however, Oracle’s vice president recently made a statement regarding the deal. 

“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.”

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The competing claims are leaving the public unsure of what the reality of this deal actually is. It does seem as though the Trump administration is in support of the Oracle Walmart bid for partial ownership of the app, however, the claims from ByteDance that they still would hold a majority stake in the company is concerning for business leaders. 

Professor Paul Haskell-Dowland is an associate dean of Computing and Security at Edith Cowan University in Australia who recently spoke with the press about this confusing deal and what it actually means for the future of TikTok in America. 

“There are competing claims [about ownership] because no one is really telling the full story. The deal seems to be changing by the hour.”

Haskell-Dowland went on to explain that the US and China will likely engage in more back-and-forth in regards to this deal and security updates that will come with the apps new ownership. In the end, he believes that it’s more of a political fight between two nations and has nothing “to do with national security or intellectual property.” Only time will tell what the final deal actually looks like and until then, users will just have to enjoy TikTok as it is before it potentially changes forever.

Ancestry

The Blackstone Group Just Bought Ancestry.com For $4.7 Billion

The Blackstone Group is a private equity firm that is known as the world’s largest landlord. Ancestry.com is also the world’s largest genealogy website with over 6 billion records of family history in the United States alone! The website has DNA tested over 18 million individuals to help provide DNA lineage to patrons. Now, in a new $4.7 billion deal, the two major corporations are joining forces. 

Ancestry operates in 34 countries around the world and is accessible from most places on the planet. The website was originally founded back in 1996 and receives an annual revenue of about $1 billion a year. The DNA testing aspect of Ancestry is relatively new, and allows users to send their DNA to drug companies so they can trace the family line. 

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This aspect has raised a lot of red flags for people, as many want to know what happens to their DNA information after those results are found. The skepticism has gone so far that even the Pentagon has warned US military personnel against using any sort of DNA testing service, placing a hefty emphasis on Ancestry specifically. 

The recent purchasing of the website by Blackstone is also raising a lot of concerns, as many are wondering what a private equity company wants with a DNA genealogy website. The biggest concern that isn’t exactly baseless in its claim is that Blackstone will use this information as a means of discriminating against tenants based on race or socioeconomic status. 

“We are very excited to partner with Ancestry and its management team. We believe Ancestry has a significant runway for further growth as people of all ages and backgrounds become increasingly interested in learning more about their family histories and themselves.”

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US federal housing laws obviously prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on things like race, religion, national origin, etc., however, thanks to how advanced technology and social media is today, many real estate companies are able to get away with this discrimination in a more private matter by doing their own research on the people who are renting their spaces. Blackstone, however, recently made a statement on their Ancestry deal, claiming that they’re mainly interested in “digital consumer businesses and investing more money into data development.” 

Basically, Blackstone is more interested in growing digital businesses, as those are the ones that survive the most especially in unexpected circumstances like a global pandemic. The company has responded as well to multiple media outlet posts that are claiming the company is being unclear as to who will have access to individual DNA, as well as how it will impact the many real estate landlords that work for Blackstone. Matt Anderson is a managing director at Blackstone who recently released a statement to the media on this matter. 

“We are deeply committed to following all fair housing laws and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. Furthermore, Blackstone itself will not have access to this data and we will never—repeat never—share it between these two businesses.”

Blackstone, however, has a deep history of discrimination cases and claims filed against them among tenants and landlords. In some of these cases rents rose up to 50% after Blackstone purchased certain housing developments, causing many individuals of a lower socioeconomic status to move out and face homelessness while wealthier clientele could move in and take over.