U.S. President Donald trump revealed on Friday July 31 that he was planning to sign an executive order as soon as Saturday August 1, banning Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok from the United States.
According to Reuters, the move would be the culmination of U.S. national security concerns over the safety of the personal data that TikTok handles. It would represent a major blow for TikTok’s owner, Beijing-based ByteDance, which became one of only a handful of truly global Chinese conglomerates thanks to the app’s commercial success.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we are banning them from the United States. I will sign the document tomorrow,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One.
Trump’s move comes following a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) in the United States, which investigates deals affecting US national security.
TikTok, especially popular with young audiences who create and watch its short-form videos, has an estimated billion users worldwide.
Queried by Agence France Presse (AFP), TikTok declined to comment on the reports of the forced sales, saying only: “We are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.”
“Hundreds of millions of people come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, including our community of creators and artists who are building livelihoods from the platform.
The firm this week pledged a high level of transparency, including allowing reviews of its algorithms, to assure users and regulators.
“We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda — our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy,” TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer said in post this week.
“TikTok has become the latest target, but we are not the enemy.”
The popularity of the platform surged after ByteDance acquired US-based app Musical.ly in 2017 and merged it with its own video service.
James Lewis, head of the technology policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he believes the security risk of using TikTok is “close to zero” but that ByteDance could face pressure from China to engage in censorship.
“It looks like ByteDance may be getting squeezed by Beijing, so making them divest makes sense,” Lewis said. “They could start censoring stuff.”
Lewis said US authorities under CFIUS have the power to unwind an acquisition previously approved and that a similar action was taken in 2019 with the dating app Grindr after it was bought by a Chinese firm.