US President Donald Trump has announced that he will ban short video making app, TikTok, from the United States as soon as today.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” he said to reporters while aboard the Air Force One.
The US President said he would use emergency economic powers or an executive order to issue the ban, but it was not immediately clear what the nature of the order would be or if it would have any legal implications
“Well, I have the authority,” Trump said.
Earlier in the week, the parties concerned with the issue within the Trump administration expected the US President to sign an executive order forcing ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, to sell its US operations. The declaration to ban the app has poured cold water on a potential deal that would have seen Microsoft acquire the app.
The move was aimed at resolving concerns regarding the app’s privacy. TikTok is deemed a National Security Risk due to its Chinese ownership.
The US government is conducting a National security review of TikTok and is preparing to give a policy recommendation to Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.
ByteDance has been considering effecting changes on its corporate structure with the possibility of selling off a majority stake to a US investor.
Microsoft has been in talks to acquire a major stake in the video making app, with Trump firmly opposed to a spin-off idea satisfying National Security concerns.
The app has exploded in popularity in the US and other countries, becoming the first Chinese social media to gain so much traction outside its home country. It was downloaded 315 million times between January and March, the biggest number of downloads for any app in history, according to analytics company, Sensor tower. TikTok has so far been downloaded more than two billion times.
Strained relations between the US and China have put Chinese companies in a precarious situation. The UK in early July terminated its links with Huawei, announcing that they are removing the telco’s gear within six months, and that Huawei would not be commissioned in the building of the country’s 5G networks. This came after US imposed sanctions on Huawei, following National Security Concerns. According to the Trump administration, Huawei was using its infrastructure to spy on the US on behalf of the Chinese Government. TikTok also poses a threat as critics believe that the data collected on the app could land in the hands of the Chinese government.
TikTok on its part said that it stores its data outside of China and would resist any attempts by the Chinese government to seize the information.
“TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors come from the US. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform,” TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide told CNN Business Saturday.
Early this week, the company opened up its algorithm, a first for any app, allowing scrutiny into detailed processes in the app, including any permissions and restrictions.
Cybersecurity experts have termed TikTok’s National Security threats as largely theoretical, adding that there is no evidence to suggest that the app’s user data has been compromised by Chinese intelligence.