Training AI on TikTok Videos? Early Bidder Emerges Ahead of Wednesday Vote on Forced-Sale Bill

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Former Activision and Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. Photo Credit: Steven Simko

As congressional momentum builds behind a bill that would compel ByteDance to divest from TikTok, a potential bidder has reportedly emerged in former Activision CEO Bobby Kotick.

Word of Kotick’s rumored interest in scooping up TikTok’s stateside operation entered the media spotlight in a Wall Street Journal report. But at the time of this writing, neither the exec nor ByteDance seemed to have commented publicly on the matter.

Per the Journal, however, Kotick floated the possible purchase of TikTok to business professionals including OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. The latter’s decidedly well-funded company could, of course, train its AI models on TikTok clips.

Predictably, given the video-sharing app’s significant stateside reach, the transaction would bring an estimated price tag of “hundreds of billions of dollars,” according to the same report.

Beyond the considerations associated with raising the sizable sum at hand, different prospective buyers would undoubtedly come to the table should the forced-sale legislation, specifically the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, become law. (About four years back, as part of a separate government-powered push for TikTok’s sale, Microsoft appeared poised to buy the platform.)

While the White House has signaled support for the measure, its congressional fate isn’t entirely clear. The bipartisan 50-0 vote that took the bill out of committee in the House looks to suggest that the scheduled Wednesday floor vote will see lawmakers approve the act.

But its path in the Senate could prove rockier; some senators have expressed free-speech reservations about the legislation, which isn’t the first bill of this nature. Unsurprisingly, TikTok and ByteDance, hardly strangers to lobbying, are reportedly working to thwart any progress for the act in the Senate.

Lastly, should the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act be signed into law, ByteDance would have approximately five months to step away from TikTok in the States. That window would presumably allow for a legal challenge as well; in December, a federal judge blocked TikTok’s full-scale ban in Montana following opposition from the service.

Needless to say, it’ll be worth monitoring the act, with an initial eye on the aforementioned Wednesday vote in the House, moving forward. Also significant (though in many ways relegated to the background amid the forced-sale speculation) is the app’s licensing showdown with Universal Music Group and possibly others.

Notwithstanding these and adjacent obstacles, TikTok is continuing to build out, including with last week’s announcement of the “Creator Rewards Program” as well as expanded subscription options.