While all parties have agreed, in principle, to the proposed Oracle/Walmart lead takeover of TikTok, which seemingly meets both the US and Chinese Government’s requirements for the deal to proceed, the actual details are still being worked out, with some disagreement over what, exactly, will be included in the sell-off of the app.
Which now leads to the next potential problem for the app.
Originally, TikTok had until September 20th – last Sunday – to arrange a separation deal, or it would face removal from the US app store. That came close to happening, until the Oracle/Walmart deal was seemingly on track for approval, and as such, the US Department of Commerce agreed to give TikTok an extra seven days to finalize the new arrangement.
Which means that the app’s deadline is now this Sunday, and if the takeover deal is not signed off by then, TikTok will indeed be removed from US app stores, meaning that while current users will still be able to use the app, no one else will be able to get it until the deal gets the final go-ahead.
TikTok is still adding new users at a solid rate, and as such, it’s fairly keen to avoid an app store ban – and now, as a sort insurance policy in case the Oracle deal drags on, TikTok has requested an injunction against its pending app store ban, citing a lack of evidence and just cause in the White House executive order.
And it may well get it – late last week, a US Magistrate ruled that the same ban on WeChat, which was also named in the original White House Executive Order, could not go ahead due to lack of evidence in relation to the concern that the app is a threat to national security.
As per Judge Laurel Beeler:
“While the general evidence about the threat to national security related to China (regarding technology and mobile technology) is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest”.
TikTok could argue the same. In fact, it’s already stated that case in its commentary on the proposed US Government ban, in a post entitled ‘Why we are suing the Administration‘ published last month.
As per TikTok:
“The Executive Order issued by the Administration on August 6th, 2020 has the potential to strip the rights of [our] community without any evidence to justify such an extreme action, and without any due process. We strongly disagree with the Administration’s position that TikTok is a national security threat and we have articulated these objections previously.”
Indeed, while various concerns have been raised about TikTok’s potential links to the Chinese Government, and while the app has been banned for use on US, UK and Australian military-issued devices, the actual evidence of TikTok or parent company ByteDance sharing data with the Chinese regime seems very thin – or at least it’s not available publicly.
TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, which, as a Chinese company, is beholden to China’s strict cybersecurity laws, which require businesses to share their user data on request, would seemingly have to share such, if the CCP requested it. But we have no evidence that any such demand has been tendered, nor will be any time in future.
Speculation also exists around TikTok’s algorithms and its potential to amplify pro-China messaging, but again, the actual evidence is limited in TikTok’s specific case. Moderation guidelines used by employees of the Chinese version of the app, ‘Douyin’, were leaked to the press late last year, and they clearly showed that its moderators had been advised to censor anti-China content. But Douyin and TikTok are not the same, and TikTok has explained these specific guidelines were never applied in its app.
So while the concerns are valid, and there is some basis to the considerations, the evidence for enforcement may not hold up in court. At least, it didn’t in WeChat’s case.
That could mean that TikTok will be able to avoid an app store ban, if a takeover deal is not reached, which would definitely not look good for the Trump administration and its stated intention to restrict the app.
That could, once again, put TikTok in the spotlight, and make the US Government even more determined to force a full sell-off of the app to US-based ownership.
Basically, the TikTok takeover saga is not over yet, and while it still seems likely that the parties will come to some form of agreement to let TikTok continue operating in the US, that’s still not a given, and it could face removal from app stores in just a few more days.
Meta Will Shut Down its Newsletter Platform Early Next Year
Another sign of Meta’s fleeting interest in the latest trends, the company launched Bulletin in April 2021, as part of an effort to take a piece of the growing newsletter market, with platforms like Substack seeing massive growth in facilitating direct connection between writers and their audiences. Twitter also acquired newsletter platform Revue, and it had seemed, at the time, that newsletters could offer a new, supplementary income stream for creators, aligned with social apps.
In addition to this, Meta also saw an opportunity to provide a platform for local publications that had been shut down due to the pandemic. With ad dollars from local businesses drying up, due to lockdown measures, many smaller publications had to shut down, and Meta viewed this as a chance to make Facebook an even more critical element of community engagement, by providing a direct pathway for independent journalists to serve their audiences through the app.
As part of its initial push, Meta allocated $5 million in funding for local publications to convert to Bulletin instead.
And it sort of worked. Bulletin, at last at one stage, supported over 115 publications, with more than half of the creators on the platform reaching over 1,000 subscribers.
But this year, amid tougher market conditions, Meta lost interest.
The company has been gradually scaling back its investment in news and original content in recent months. Back in July, The Wall Street Journal reported that Meta had reallocated resources from both its Facebook News tab and Bulletin, in order to ‘heighten their focus on building a more robust Creator economy’
In other words, Reels – Meta’s main investment focus for the future of the Creator Economy is short-form video content, which drives more views, more engagement, and is the big trend that Meta’s chasing right now.
As a result, Meta says that it will shut down Bulletin by early next year.
As per Meta:
“Bulletin has allowed us to learn about the relationship between Creators and their audiences and how to better support them in building their community on Facebook. While this off-platform product itself is ending, we remain committed to supporting these and other Creators’ success and growth on our platform.”
So long as they create Reels, I guess.
Again, the decision here is no surprise, but it does serve as another reminder that Meta chases whatever trends it can, and it has no real, long-term commitment on any of its new pushes.
Video is the thing, as it has been several times before, and Meta will keep pushing that till audiences lose interest. Then it’ll be something else that Meta’s pitching to brands, publishers, users, etc.
Logically, Meta follows the latest trends in order to maximize the benefit of such within its tools. But it is worth noting that, when it does lose interest, it tends to move on entirely, leaving anyone who’s invested in its last whim out in the cold.
Overall, Bulletin isn’t huge, and it won’t impact a heap of writers and publishers, as such. But even so, for those that have invested in the platform, in good faith, it’s a bitter pill, and while they will now be able to move on to other platforms as well, it’s good to remind yourself that Meta chases trends, and moves on quick.
‘Don’t build on rented land’. ‘Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket’. Don’t trust social platforms to keep supporting that feature or platform that you’ve come to rely on.
The closure of Bulletin may seem like a side note to many, but it’s an important reminder that you need to diversify your strategy to avoid such impacts.
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