French football club owner Frank McCourt set for US TikTok bid

A man carries a Free TikTok sign in front of the courthouse where the hush-money trial of Donald Trump got underway April 15, 2024, in New York.
A man carries a Free TikTok sign in front of the courthouse where the hush-money trial of Donald Trump got underway April 15, 2024, in New York. Copyright Ted Shaffrey/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Ted Shaffrey/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AP
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The entrepreneur is preparing a consortium to buy TikTok as US President Joe Biden pushes the platform's China-based parent company to sell.

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Businessman Frank McCourt, owner of the Olympique de Marseille football club and former owner of the LA Dodgers, said on Wednesday that his organisation Project Liberty is putting together a consortium to bid for TikTok's US business.

McCourt, who is organising the bid in consultation with investment bank Guggenheim Securities, is one of a number of investors hoping to benefit from a new federal law that requires TikTok's China-based parent company to sell the platform or face a ban.

US lawmakers passed the bill over concerns that China could access sensitive American data through the app.

If a sale occurs, McCourt said he would restructure TikTok to give users more control over their digital identities and data. He plans to achieve this by switching the platform to an open-source protocol, which would increase transparency.

McCourt said he doesn't use TikTok personally, but his businesses and internet-focused initiative do. The bid is an extension of his long-running interest in remodelling the internet with better data privacy protections, an effort he's focused on through Project Liberty. He founded the project "to build a new digital civic architecture for a safer, healthier internet," according to the organisation's website.

So far, his vision to remake TikTok has received the backing of Jonathan Haidt, a well-known social psychologist whose recent book "The Anxious Generation" focuses on how smartphones and social media have contributed to a mental health crisis among young people.

"We thought this was a really fantastic opportunity to accelerate the creation of an alternative internet," McCourt told Associated Press in an interview.

Other investors, including former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, have expressed a desire to buy TikTok. However, parent company ByteDance has already said it does not plan to sell the platform. Some experts have also noted the Chinese government is also unlikely to approve a sale, especially not one that includes the recommendation engine that powers the videos that populates users' feeds.

The recommendation engine is an algorithm that personalises content, showing users videos they are likely to find engaging.

McCourt said he was not interested in TikTok's current algorithm because "top-down" recommendation engines conflict with his view of how such platforms should be managed. He also thinks ByteDance will sell TikTok's US business at some point.

For now, though, ByteDance has been fighting back against the law passed last month, which would disrupt one of its most lucrative markets.

Last week, the firm filed a lawsuit against the US government to block the law from coming into effect. On Tuesday, eight TikTok creators filed their own challenge, arguing the law violates their First Amendment rights to free speech.

The company also has been waging a legal battle in Montana to block a state law that would ban the video-sharing platform.

On Tuesday, TikTok, Montana users and the state of Montana agreed to put a stay on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Montana's first-in-the-nation ban while the federal lawsuits are decided.

Montana's law, which was temporarily blocked before it could take effect on 1 January, would be nullified if a company that is not based in a country designated as a foreign adversary acquires TikTok.

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