President Donald Trump said late Friday (July 31) that he plans to ban Chinese-based social-video giant TikTok in the United States even as reports emerged that Microsoft Corp. is in discussions to buy the company’s American operations.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to NBC News.
The president said he could sign an order doing so as early as Saturday. “Well, I have that authority,” Trump said, although it wasn’t immediately clear if he really does.
TikTok is renowned for lip-synching and dancing clips, and has seen dramatically more use in 2020 during COVID-19. Approximately 315 million users reportedly downloaded TikTok in Q1 2020, and young people the world over especially like the app.
However, U.S. leaders have expressed concerns that the app could send U.S. user-generated data from streaming media to the Chinese government, although the platform has indicated that it won’t. U.S. officials also worry that TikTok could distribute propaganda, and that those managing content on the platform could censor communications.
On Thursday (July 30), two U.S. senators — one a Democrat and the other a Republican — asked the U.S Justice Department to look into any Chinese government ties to TikTok, as well as to video-conferencing company Zoom Video Communications Inc.
Trump’s reelection campaign has also reportedly used Facebook to request that individuals sign a petition to prohibit TikTok. In addition, Trump’s campaign has reportedly put ads on Facebook implying that TikTok is “spying” on American users, which the firm has denied.
And recently, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Americans who download the app risk having their personal information get into “the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
The president’s vow to shut TikTok down in America came a few hours after The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed sources as saying that Microsoft might buy the company’s U.S. arm for billions of dollars.
In addition, reports earlier this month indicated that a group of top U.S. venture-capital firms was seeking to buy TikTok as well. The investors were reportedly in discussions with the Treasury Department and other watchdogs to determine whether purchasing TikTok would assuage the White House’s concerns regarding the app.