POLITICO’s Digital Future Daily: A glimpse at an alternative TikTok

Jun 6 POLITICO Rebecca kern

TikTok is heading into an uncertain future.

While the company has been busy fighting what it calls an unconstitutional federal law forcing its Beijing-based owner to sell the app or face a U.S. ban, potential buyers have been lining up.

Famously, one is Donald Trump’s former Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who said in March that he’s assembling a group of investors to buy TikTok, and reiterated his interest last month after the law passed. Canadian businessman Kevin O’Leary has also expressed interest — but only if he can get it for $20 or $30 billionat a 90 percent discount from TikTok’s estimated value of $100 billion.

A very different potential buyer recently joined the fray — billionaire real-estate mogul and philanthropist Frank McCourt. The former Los Angeles Dodgers owner, who has become one of big tech platforms’ most vocal critics, is now also trying to buy one of the largest social media apps in the world.

In May, he said he was forming a “people’s bid” to transform TikTok into a platform that would allow users to have more control over their data — and, hopefully, draw the app’s 170 million U.S. users onto his new digital open-source protocol run by his non-profit called Project Liberty.

As part of his campaign, McCourt hosted a breakfast for the media on Wednesday at the five-star Jefferson Hotel in Washington to highlight the latest group of supporters for his bid — parents who have lost children to harms tied to social media.

The event featured four parents who spoke about how their children died following social media challenges and cyberbullying on other social-media platforms like Snapchat and YouTube. They had reached out to McCourt to back his effort to reform TikTok into a safer platform.

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