President Donald Trump has announced that he is banning the TikTok app for sharing Chinese-owned video in the U.S.
He told reporters that he could sign an executive order early Saturday.
US security officials have expressed concern that the app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, can be used to collect Americans’ personal data.
TikTok denied the accusations that it controlled or shared the data with the Chinese government.
The fast growing app contains up to 80 million monthly active users in America and the ban will be a major blow to ByteDance.
“Regarding TikTok, we are banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One.
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It was not immediately clear what Trump’s authority to ban TikTok would be, how it would be enforced and what legal challenges he would face.
Microsoft was reportedly in talks to purchase the app from ByteDance, but Trump appears to doubt that such a deal will be allowed to pass. If the deal goes ahead, reports say it will include ByteDance getting rid of US TikTok operations.
A TikTok spokesman declined to comment on Trump’s ban, but he told US media that the company was “confident of TikTok’s long-term success” in the United States.
The move to ban TikTok comes at a time of heightened tensions between the Trump administration and the Chinese government on a number of issues, including trade disputes and Beijing’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak.
What is TikTok?
The platform has exploded in popularity in recent years, mostly with people under the age of 20.
They use the app to share 15-second videos that often include lip syncing with songs, comedy routines and unusual editing tricks.
These videos are then provided to both followers and strangers. By default, all accounts are public, although users can limit uploads to the approved contact list.
TikTok also allows private messages but this attachment is limited to “friends.”
The app is said to have about 800 million monthly active users, mostly in the United States and India.
India has already banned TikTok as well as other Chinese apps. Australia, which has already banned Huawei and telecoms equipment maker ZTE, is considering banning TikTok.
Why Trump hates TikTok
Analysis by James Clayton, BBC technology correspondent for North America
Trump’s hatred of TikTok goes beyond just privacy concerns.
In India, TikTok was banned after border skirmishes with China – it occurred in a geopolitical dispute. This is what happened here as well. Trump’s eyes are heavily on China – and this must be seen with that lens.
TikTok says it does not keep any data in China and will never provide it to China.
However, in many ways, it doesn’t matter what they say, and the fact that they are owned by a Chinese company is guilty enough.
Also not to be ignored is Trump’s previous experience with TikTok.
Last month, users claimed to have spoiled the Tulsa march after signing tickets they had no intention of using.
Although there are Republican and conservative voices on TikTok, the user profile for US users is generally young and liberal / left-wing.
It is hard to believe that this is not a factor here.
Why is the United States concerned about TikTok?
US officials and politicians have raised concerns that the data collected by ByteDance via TikTok may be passed on to the Chinese government.
TikTok is working on a similar but separate version of the app in China, known as Douyin. It says that all US user data is stored in the U.S., with a backup in Singapore.
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TikTok this week notified users and regulators that it would adhere to a high level of transparency, including allowing its algorithms to be reviewed.
“We are not politicians, we do not accept political ads and we do not have an agenda – our only goal is to remain a dynamic and dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy.” TikTok CEO, Kevin Meyer, said in a post this week.
“TikTok has become the last target, but we are not the enemy.”