US will ban Chinese app TikTok, declares President Donald Trump
After indicating his views about TikTok, owned by Chinese giant ByteDance several times, United States President Donald Trump said on Friday (local time) that he will ban the popular short-form video app. "As far as TikTok is concerned, we are banning them from the United States," Trump, locked in a bitter battle with China over various issues, said. Here are more details.
Reportedly, Trump said he would be signing an order as early as Saturday. He, however, didn't clarify if he was going to act through an executive order. Earlier in the day, without committing anything, Trump said a ban was likely. "We may be banning TikTok. We'll see what happens, but we are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok," he added.
By declaring his intention, Trump has also rejected a speculated deal between Microsoft and TikTok. As per reports, the US software giant was looking at purchasing the app from its parent company. On Friday, a report in The Wall Street Journal claimed the company, headed by Indian-origin Satya Nadella, is looking at spending billions of dollars. The talks had taken good shape, WSJ said.
Tellingly, there has been a growing consensus between Republicans and Democrats over the security risk that TikTok poses. Earlier this month, the Democratic National Committee told Democratic campaigns, committees, and state parties to be extra cautious while using the app, which has somewhere between 65 million and 80 million users in the US alone. DNC suggested campaign staff against downloading TikTok on personal devices.
Similarly, Republican National Committee National Press Secretary Mandi Merritt said employees and stakeholders have been told to not download the app, citing security concerns. Not long ago, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, had warned people should only download TikTok if they want their private information leaked to China. Pompeo was among the first high-ranking officials to hint that a ban was imminent.
It's pertinent to highlight that Trump's move comes after the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) in the United States, which probes matters affecting the national security, sat for a review. Speaking on the matter, head of the technology policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, James Lewis, said that while TikTok's security risk is minimum, China might force ByteDance for censorship.
This week, TikTok declared it didn't mind if its algorithms are reviewed. This was seen as an attempt to gain trust. "We are not political, we don't accept political advertising and have no agenda — our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy," CEO Kevin Mayer (who is an American) said. But the offer didn't find many takers.
Trump's decision naturally serves a big blow to TikTok, which was already tackling a blanket ban in India. Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government banned dozens of Chinese apps, including TikTok, SHAREit, CamScanner, amid rising border tensions with China. New Delhi had also cited national security, as well as the nation's sovereignty and integrity, to justify the step.