US President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered that a ban on interacting with popular social media platform TikTok or its Chinese parent company; it takes effect in 45 days.
“The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,” Trump said in an executive order.
After taking effect, the order will bar “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd” or any company in which it has an interest.
Escalating tensions and retaliations
The move comes after months of escalating tensions, which saw Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others at the White House warn that TikTok presented a national security threat because of its Chinese ownership. On Friday, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he was preparing to sign some sort of order banning the app.
The new executive order will block all transactions with ByteDance, TikTok’s parent corporation, in an effort to “address the national emergency with respect to the information and communication technology supply chain.” It isn’t effective immediately; it has a 45-day deadline.
“The spread [of apps controlled by the Chinese government] continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” the order reads. “The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security.”
The orders on Thursday came as the Trump administration said it was stepping up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks and called the Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok and messenger app WeChat “significant threats”.
TikTok downloaded 175 million times in US
China-based ByteDance owns TikTok, which has its US headquarters in Southern California.
Trump’s order contended the step is needed to “deal with the national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and services supply chain.”
The TikTok mobile application has been downloaded some 175 million times in the US and more than a billion times around the world, according to the order.
Trump: "We're looking at TikTok, we may be banning TikTok." pic.twitter.com/i5WEstwFfS
— The Recount (@therecount) July 31, 2020
In the other, the US president said WeChat, owned by China’s Tencent, “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users” and that this data collection “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information”.
Read more: Should TikTok be banned in Pakistan?
The moves come as Washington and Beijing clash on an array of issues, ranging from the novel coronavirus pandemic and Beijing’s policies in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, to the US’s support for Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.
“TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories,” the order contended.
Chinese authorities collecting data?
“This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”
Data from TikTok could potentially be used by China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers on people for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage, the order speculated.
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
The Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, and the United States Armed Forces have already banned the use of TikTok on federal government phones, according to Trump’s order.
“The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,” the order read.
Trump, who has locked horns with China on a range of issues including trade and the coronavirus pandemic, has set a deadline of mid-September for TikTok to be acquired by a US firm or be banned in the United States.
Microsoft has expanded its talks on TikTok to a potential deal that would include buying the global operations of the fast-growing video-sharing app, the Financial Times reported Thursday.
“We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the [Trump] administration, then by the US courts,” TikTok said on its website.
Microsoft declined to comment on the report, after previously disclosing it was considering a deal for TikTok operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk