President Donald Trump is days away from announcing strong action against the popular Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok to protect US national security, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday. Trump has been talking about the TikTok ban for weeks now. It is likely given the nipping relations that Mr.Pompeo is right and President Trump is set to ban TikTok in the upcoming days.
He said TikTok and other Chinese software companies operating in the US, such as WeChat, feed personal data on American citizens directly to the Chinese Communist Party.
For years the US has put up with this because Americans felt “we’re having fun with it,” Pompeo said.
Chinese apps accused of spying on the population
“President Trump has said, ‘Enough,’ and we’re going to fix it,” Pompeo told Fox News.
“And so he will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party,” he added.
Read more: Should TikTok be banned in Pakistan?
Pompeo and Trump both have been giving dire warnings about the apps and about the increasing presence of China in the digital space.
Should TikTok be sold or blocked?
Pompeo said the data that companies like TikTok are gleaning about Americans “could be their facial recognition pattern; it could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends, who they’re connected to.”
— Gordon G. Chang (@GordonGChang) August 2, 2020
Earlier, in another ominous US warning to the Chinese-owned app, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said TikTok should be sold or blocked in the US.
TikTok, Mnuchin said, simply “cannot exist as it does.”
Mnuchin did not comment directly on Trump’s threat Friday to bar the wildly popular video-sharing app.
The secretary recalled that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States — which he chairs — is reviewing TikTok, which is especially popular with young audiences who create and watch its short-form videos and has an estimated one billion users worldwide. The app is also most common in places where other social media is found not to be that common. Instagram and other social media may not be that prevalent in countries such as Pakistan, or India as such but TikTok is.
Chinese and American relations becoming cold
But in one of many fronts in the increasingly poisonous US-Chinese relationship, US officials have said it could be a tool for Chinese intelligence. TikTok denies any such suggestion. It has been publically noted however that the animosity between the two nations is on levels that have not been seen in decades. The ban on TikTok may be a slippery slope from which either nation may struggle to return, despite Pompeo and Trump’s admonition of the app.
“I will say publicly that the entire committee agrees that TikTok cannot stay in the current format because it risks sending back information on 100 million Americans,” Mnuchin said Sunday on ABC.
One popular TikTok user said that President Trump’s threat to ban the app may even sway more young people to vote against him. “For many kids, politics feel very distant,” said another user. “This might be the first time it hits home for a lot of kids.” https://t.co/pCNxybeHIP
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 3, 2020
Mnuchin said he has spoken to leaders of Congress including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, about what to do with TikTok’s operations in the US.
“We agree there needs to be a change — force a sale or block the app. Everybody agrees it can’t exist as it does,” Mnuchin said.
The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that negotiations for Microsoft to buy the US operations of TikTok, owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance, are on hold after Trump threatened to bar the app.
TikTok defended itself on Saturday, with its general manager for the US, Vanessa Pappas, telling users that the company was working to give them “the safest app,” amid US concerns over data security.
“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” Pappas said in a message released on the app.
AFP with additional input from GVS News Desk