Things That Matter

Microsoft In Talks To Buy TikTok As Trump Tries To Ban The App From The US

Update July 31, 2020: President Donald Trump is renewing his attempt to ban TikTok from the U.S. There has been more scrutiny on TikTok as more people delete the app from their phone over security and privacy concerns. Yet, Microsoft is now interested in buying the social media platform.

President Donald Trump is reportedly getting ready to tell Chinese-owned ByteDance to sell their U.S. stakes in TikTok

While President Trump continues his attempts to get rid of TikTok, Microsoft is swooping in to save the social media platform by acquiring it now. It is unclear how far the talks are between Microsoft and TikTok but it would protect the app from being banned in the U.S. ByteDance the company that owns TikTok is valued at $100 billion.

Original: With millions of teens and young adults – a demographic I think I still fit – under lockdown orders thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans turned to TikTok.

The fun, 15-second video app has been downloaded more than 200 million times in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic, with users sharing everything from dance and recipe videos to starting now-viral trends. The app is loved by its users and they’re proving they’ll stand by it when it comes under threat. Which is exactly what they’re doing now as the Trump administration has announced a potential ban on TikTok.

According to some officials, Trump is looking to ban TikTok.

According to senior administration officials – and Trump himself – the TikTok app is a threat to U.S. national security and at risk of being banned in the country. Some are suggesting it’s a way for Trump to retaliate against China over its handling of the Coronavirus, others suggest it’s Trump retaliating against ‘TikTokivists’ who helped make his Tulsa rally a total disaster. Either way, news of a possible ban on TikTok has sent its users into overdrive.

Trump’s comments came after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told Americans not to download the app unless they want to see their private information fall into “the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Trump didn’t offer specifics about a potential decision and Pompeo seemed to walk back the idea of a ban in a later statement, saying that the U.S. efforts to protect American consumers’ data don’t relate to any one particular company.

TikTok, an app known for quirky short videos, is facing political heat because of its ties to China.

Credit: Getty Stock Images

TikTok has in fact come under increased scrutiny in recent months – not just in the U.S. – for it’s ties to China. TikTok is owned by a Chinese company and many countries around the world are worried about that connection. Citing national security concerns, India banned TikTok last week. The US Army and Navy have banned service members from downloading the app to government-issued phones. Even Amazon has raised concerns. On Friday, the huge online retailer barred employees from using the app on devices that connect to the company’s email, citing “security risks.”

TikTok has tried responding to the issue. In an interview with CNBC, a TikTok spokesperson said, “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

The company has also made it clear that all data from American citizens is stored outside of China, on servers based in the United States. The company claims that its data centers are located entirely outside of China, and that none of their users’ data is subject to Chinese law.

Meanwhile, many TikTok users say they care less about potential Chinese snooping and more about Trump taking away their digital hangout. In the U.S., TikTok has been downloaded more than 165 million times, according to Sensor Tower.

“I don’t believe Trump is trying to take TikTok away because of national security, but more to retaliate against activism on the app and all the videos about him that drag him through the mud,” said Darius Jackson, an 18-year-old TikTok user, in a statement to CNBC.

“This is the first year I’ll be able to vote and I think activism on TikTok is going to make a big difference,” Jackson said.

Many view the move as retaliation for Trump’s failed Tulsa rally.

Credit: Mark Short / Getty Images

It’s hard to forget the epic fail that was Trump’s Tulsa rally. His planned ‘relaunch’ of his 2020 campaign after being forced to suspend his massive rallies because of Coronavirus.

Leading up to the event, Trump had touted record-shattering interest and ticket sales for the rally. He went so far as to say that millions of Americans had RSVP’d for it – and he wasn’t actually lying this time. However, there was one minor problem – hundreds of thousands of tickets were actually reserved in a massive campaign by Korean pop stans and TikTok users.

Thanks to a TikTok campaign, Trump’s ‘massive’ rally was an utter disaster attended by only a few thousand people. Many suggest that this campaign cold be why Trump is looking to target TikTok with some sort of ban.

Since the announcement, ‘TikTok Teens’ have launched a full-fledged assault against the Trump administration.

One of the pettiest (ie. best) moves the collection of ‘TikTokivists’ has made so far, is that tens of thousands flooded the Apple App Store and left scathing reviews of the Trump 2020 Campaign app. On Wednesday alone 700 negative reviews were left on the Official Trump 2020 app and 26 positive ones, according to tracking firm Sensor Tower.

“For Gen Z and Millennials, TikTok is our clubhouse and Trump threatened it,” said Yori Blacc, a 19-year-old TikTok user in California who joined in the app protest. “If you’re going to mess with us, we will mess with you.”

The efforts to push the app low enough so that Apple will remove it from the app store may be misguided. Apple doesn’t delete apps based on their popularity. The App Store may review those that violate its guidelines or are outdated, but not if their ratings sink. A similar tactic was tried in April to protest Google Classroom by kids frustrated with quarantine home-schooling.

But can the U.S. government actually ban an app?

According to most legal experts, the answer is no. Sure, the administration could attempt to but thanks to the U.S. legal system, a total ban wouldn’t last. Administrations have limited authority to ban outright any specific piece of software, like an app. But it could potentially lobby Congress to enact legislation that targets TikTok.

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Lizzie Velasquez Calls Out Mother Who Used Her Image To Scare Son During TikTok Challenge

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Lizzie Velasquez Calls Out Mother Who Used Her Image To Scare Son During TikTok Challenge

Rich Fury / Getty Images for Girlboss

Lizzie Velasquez is no stranger to bullying. The anti-bullying activist has been relentlessly bullied on social media and a TikTok trend brought it all back. The “FaceTime Prank” is already showing how hurtful people are online and Velasquez was once again bullied thanks to this trend.

The “FaceTime Prank” trend on TikTok is revealing the worst of humanity.

Lizzie Velasquez is a well-known anti-bullying activist. Her work has taken her around the world as she has spoken to politicians about the dangers of bullying. In a post to Instagram, Velasquez admits that she saw this coming when the trend started to pick up steam. Mainly because she knows that some adults still aren’t strong or reasonable enough to realize how hurtful they are.

Velasquez is calling for TikTok to do better in making sure this kind of bullying doesn’t grow on it’s platform.

In a video, Velasquez is calling out not just the people participating, but the platform that is letting this circulate. TikTok is a growing, albeit potentially canceled, social media platform. The video showing a child’s scared reaction to Velasquez is part of a larger problem of bullying on social media.

People are ready to stand up for Velasquez.

It is just common courtesy not to make fun of people and their physical appearance. It is something that good parents teach their children. Velasquez called on basic human decency when it comes to the challenge that has led to people being made fun of for their physical appearances and disabilities.

People are surrounding her with love.

Velasquez has long used her own experiences with bullying to fight against bullying. The activist is no stranger to being the butt of people’s jokes but it doesn’t make it any easier. Her strength has made people feel seen in their own journeys to empowerment.

People are just furious that people are so shallow that Velasquez could be the butt of the joke.

Lizzie Velasquez has become a beacon of hope in the fight against bullying. She has stood before Congress and spoke to them about the importance of fighting against bullying. Her latest moment of calling attention to unchecked bullying in a public realm is just part of her longlasting legacy standing up to hate.

Thank you, Lizzie.

READ: People Said A Writer Was Too Ugly To Take Selfies And Now She’s Getting Support From Twitter, News Outlets, And Even Brazil

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A Federal Court Ruling Could Finally Put Much Needed Stimulus Funds In The Hands Of Native Tribes

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A Federal Court Ruling Could Finally Put Much Needed Stimulus Funds In The Hands Of Native Tribes

Sharon Shischilly / Getty Images

Indigenous communities in the Unites States have often been forgotten or deliberately excluded from federal policy. Many nations have been forced to go it alone and, as Covid-19 ravages Native lands, many tribe members have died.

After more than two centuries of exclusion, amid a global epidemic, Indigenous communities are once again being excluded from the decision-making process in Washington even as Covid-19 devastates their communities.

But while Indigenous peoples haven’t always had success before the courts, there has been real momentum of late. In July, the Supreme Court recognized roughly half of Oklahoma as Indigenous land, in a ruling that will have far-reaching consequences in the state justice system and beyond.

Now, Native Americans are having to fight once again for what they’re owed as the federal government distributes the more than $150 billion in stimulus money. More than a dozen Indigenous organizations warned, starting in early April, that if the Trump administration did not listen to tribal governments, they ran the risk of turning the relief package into a “grave injustice.”

A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to give Native tribes their withheld stimulus money.

Credit: Sam Wasson / Getty Images

Frustrated and disgusted that it has taken so long for the Treasury Department to distribute federal stimulus funds to Native American tribes, a federal judge ordered Secretary Steve Mnuchin to distribute the money immediately, according to HuffPost. The judge said that tribes should have received their portion of the CARES Act months ago when other Americans received theirs.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta was particularly critical of Mnuchin’s decision to hold back $679 million in funding set aside for tribes while waiting on a decision in another case that will determine whether tribal businesses are eligible for the funding, as The Hill reported.

In his ruling, Mehta said “Continued delay in the face of an exceptional public health crisis is no longer acceptable.”

Over the past three months, the Treasury Department has managed to send out billions of dollars in loans to small businesses, checks to families and aid to corporations. But distributing the $8 billion pot set aside for tribal governments has proved more difficult. As a result, tribes, already critically underfunded and among the nation’s most vulnerable communities, have not received all the money they need to weather the pandemic and begin recovering from the economic toll.

“Congress made a policy judgment that tribal governments are in dire need of emergency relief to aid in their public health efforts and imposed an incredibly short time limit to distribute those dollars,” he wrote in an order released late Monday night. “The 80 days they have waited, when Congress intended receipt of emergency funds in less than half that time, is long enough.”

Some tribes were owed $12 million in federal funding and yet got nothing from the government.

Credit: Mark Ralson / Getty Images

Much of the fault is with the Treasury Department which counted the populations of Native tribes differently that Congress had intended. This meant that some tribes would end up with zero funding while some for-profit tribal companies could end up with millions.

Since some tribes do not have a designated reservation or service area, their population counts were listed as zero and they received only the minimum $100,000 allocation.

“We are not races — we are sovereign nations,” said Chief Ben Barnes of the Shawnee Tribe. He added “How can a tribe have zero people?” noting that more than 3,000 people belong to his tribe. “It was a simple clerical error, but no one at Treasury tried to fix it.”

The oversight was even more egregious, Barnes said, because there is also a census count that, while not completely accurate, would have ensured the tribe got closer to the $12 million it believes it is entitled to based on enrollment numbers.

As the legal wrangling continues, the picture on the ground is disastrous.

The Indian Health Service (IHS) reports there have been nearly 33,000 COVID-19 cases reported to IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health organizations. In May, the outbreak in the Navajo Nation surpassed New York as the highest infection rate in the country—today, its infection rate is double any state. Today, the nation has more cases, in terms of raw numbers, than several states.

And while the funding threats and lack of resources threaten everyone, Indigenous elders—sometimes the only remaining speakers of nearly lost languages—face particular danger.

In recent years, there have been furious efforts to collect Indigenous histories and preserve nearly lost Indigenous languages. COVID-19 threatens to undo much of that work as it cuts through the elderly population.

“COVID-19, like many diseases, renders Indigenous elders—our knowledge-keepers and language holders—particularly susceptible to illness and death,” wrote Gina Starblanket and Dallas Hunt, two Indigenous professors and writers in the Globe and Mail in late March. “This virus not only places us at risk, but the future well-being of coming generations as well

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