Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has described the company’s potential TikTok deal as a “poison chalice.” In a wide-ranging interview with Wired, Gates makes it clear that Microsoft acquiring parts of TikTok won’t be easy or simple. “Who knows what’s going to happen with that deal,” says Gates. “But yes, it’s a poison chalice.” He also notes that being a big player in the social media business “is no simple game,” as Microsoft will have to contend with a whole new level of content moderation.
Asked if Gates is wary of Microsoft getting into the social media game, he suggests that Facebook having some more competition is “probably a good thing” but that “having Trump kill off the only competitor, it’s pretty bizarre.”
Gates seems as confused as the rest of us about how this potential TikTok deal is proceeding, especially with President Trump suggesting the US Treasury will need some type of cut from any acquisition. “I agree that the principle this is proceeding on is singly strange,” says Gates. “The cut thing, that’s doubly strange. Anyway, Microsoft will have to deal with all of that.”
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.Photo by Ryan Manning / The Verge
Gates’ comments come just days after Microsoft confirmed it was pursuing a deal to buy TikTok’s operations in the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Reports have also suggested Microsoft might be considering buying all of TikTok’s global operations, with the Financial Times suggesting talks around this particular deal are at the “preliminary” stage.
President Trump also claimed last week that he was a day away from banning TikTok in the US, before later setting a deadline of September 15th for Microsoft to conclude its potential acquisition and avoid TikTok being banned.
It’s a complicated deal that would give Microsoft a big presence in the social networking space at the risk of being part of a larger trade war between the US and China. Gates is clearly wary of the acquisition, but we’re about a month away from seeing if it becomes a reality.