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  • Writer's pictureBetter Narrative Group

People's Bid to Acquire Tik-Tok: A New Era for User Data


Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt has expressed his intention to purchase TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media app under pressure from the US government to divest. McCourt, the executive chairman of McCourt Global and founder of Project Liberty, revealed in a Semafor interview on Tuesday that he aims to rebuild TikTok into "a new and better version of the internet where individuals are respected and they own and control their identity and their data."


"TikTok epitomizes both the best and worst aspects of the internet, connecting 170 million users and fostering creativity. However, users don’t benefit proportionately from the value generated, and their data is often misused and sent to China," McCourt said. He has retained Guggenheim Securities to assist with the "people’s bid" and is seeking $100 billion from foundations, endowments, pension funds, and public support.

"We aim for all capital to be aligned with the vision of a better internet where individuals control their identity and data," McCourt emphasized.


Even with an investor group, McCourt will face competition from major American companies eager to acquire TikTok’s lucrative advertising and user base. The 2020 forced sale attempt attracted interest from Microsoft, Oracle, and Walmart, and former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has also shown interest in TikTok now.


CONTEXT

ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is contesting new legislation that could force a sale or shut down the app. The outcome, particularly concerning TikTok’s algorithm, will significantly impact its value, estimated at around $100 billion based on 2023 revenues.

McCourt’s plan involves integrating TikTok with Project Liberty’s technical architecture, transitioning user accounts to a system compliant with the Decentralized Social Networking Protocol. This would give users greater control over their digital identities and data, allowing creators to manage and monetize their content independently.


McCourt's bid offers a profound critique of TikTok and similar US social media platforms. Project Liberty's vision may challenge the current social media landscape, advocating for user autonomy over their identities and content across different platforms.


Braxton Woodham, head of Project Liberty's software group, likened the transition to moving "a patient from a dark cave to a well-lit hospital." The initiative has support from internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee, who praised the proposed TikTok for prioritizing privacy, data sovereignty, and user mental health.


In his book Our Biggest Fight, McCourt compares internet users to serfs under a few dominant companies. TikTok creators are key in the federal lawsuit against the ban, and critics argue that issues of digital-data surveillance and user manipulation are prevalent across many social media platforms, not just TikTok.

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