US President Donald Trump said he is considering banning the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok as a way to punish China over the coronavirus pandemic, remarks China described Wednesday as “a malicious smear”.
TikTok has been caught up in the escalating disputes between the United States and China, with the Chinese-owned firm accused of acting as a spying tool for Beijing — an allegation it denies.
Trump says he may ban TikTok in the USA
“It’s something we’re looking at,” Trump said during a TV interview on Tuesday when asked about a possible ban, according to Bloomberg News.
“It’s a big business. Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful.”
Trump did not provide any details, and told Gray Television that it was “one of many” options he was considering against China, Bloomberg added.
The US should partner with India and ban the Chinese data collection and surveillance tool called TikTok.
TikTok is a Chinese pseudo-military operation used to spy on our kids and harvest their data.
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) July 1, 2020
The United States is the country worst-hit by the virus, which the American president has blamed on poor management and a lack of transparency in China — which has rejected the allegation.
Pompeo hints at TikTok ban in USA
Earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the US is looking at a ban on Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, over allegations Beijing is using them to spy on users.
India has already barred the wildly popular TikTok app over national security and privacy concerns while other countries are reportedly mulling similar measures.
Asked on Monday by Fox News’s Laura Ingraham if the US should consider blocking the apps — “especially Tik Tok” — the country’s top diplomat said the Trump administration was “taking this very seriously; we are certainly looking at it.”
Pompeo said the US had been working for a “long time” on the “problems” of Chinese technology in infrastructure and was “making real progress.”
“With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too,” he said.
Washington’s top diplomat added that people should only download the app “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
“I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we are looking at.”
Pompeo earlier lashed out at what he called China’s “Orwellian” moves to censor activists, schools and libraries in Hong Kong under a sweeping new security law.
China retorts with anger to Trump allegations
“The remarks made by some politicians in the US are totally groundless and a malicious smear,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Wednesday when asked about Trump’s comments on TikTok and China’s role in the pandemic.
“The Chinese government has always asked Chinese businesses to conduct cooperation overseas on the basis of law and compliance,” he told a regular press briefing.
Trump’s comments came a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US government was looking at banning Chinese apps — including TikTok — over espionage concerns.
Trump may ban TikTok: beleagured app maintains innocence
TikTok is estimated to have close to one billion users worldwide, but despite the huge popularity, it has long battled allegations that it is a spying tool for Beijing, with critics pointing to the fact that it is owned by a Chinese firm — ByteDance.
The firm has consistently stressed that it does not share user information with the Chinese government.
“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US,” a TikTok spokesperson told Bloomberg. “We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users.”
“We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”
TikTok — which is owned by Beijing-based startup ByteDance — has been repeatedly criticized by US politicians who accused the short-form video app of being a threat to national security because of its ties to China. They allege that the company could be compelled to “support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”
TikTok has been caught up in another international spat too — it was among the dozens of Chinese apps banned by India over national security concerns after a deadly border clash between its soldiers and Chinese troops.
And on Monday, TikTok said it was pulling out of Hong Kong after a new national security law imposed by China gave authorities sweeping powers to police the internet.
GVS News Desk with additional input by AFP and other sources