President Donald Trump said he would ban the Chinese-owned company, TikTok, from the United States after concerns about data collection by popular music and video app, which escalated the administration’s clash with China.
“Regarding TikTok, we are banning them from the United States,” the president told reporters Friday night. When asked when it would happen, he said, “Right away. I mean right away.”
Trump said he has the authority to block the app, which is owned by ByteDance Ltd., One of the largest technology companies in China, a move he could take by executive order or under the International Emergency Economic Authority law.
“I will sign the document tomorrow,” he said, before landing a presidential plane in Washington from a visit to Florida.
Trump’s move could turn a potential bid from Microsoft Corp, which was exploring an acquisition, according to people familiar with the matter. The president downplayed this idea on Friday.
“It is not the deal that I heard about, it will buy and sell, this and that. Microsoft and another. We are not an M&A company,” he said.
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Microsoft declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for the company said in a statement that TikTok has employed nearly 1,000 people in the United States this year and will employ 10,000 others in “paid jobs” across the country. She added that the billion-dollar Entrepreneur Fund supports people in the country who are building livelihoods from the platform.
She said, “TikTok user data is stored in the United States, with strict controls on employee access.” “TikTok’s largest investor comes from the United States. We are committed to protecting the privacy and safety of users.”
Banning TikTok would be the administration’s latest move to rein in China’s global technology strength. TikTok has become one of the most popular applications in the world. It has been downloaded more than 2 billion times worldwide and over 165 million times in the United States.
The management’s move came at a time when the United States’ Foreign Investment Commission, which reviews foreign company acquisitions by foreign investors, was investigating the company. In 2017 ByteDance purchased Musical.ly and merged it with TikTok. Musicaly.ly was founded in Shanghai but had a large number of followers in the United States at the time.
Trump said in early July that he was considering imposing a ban as a way to retaliate against China over its handling of the coronavirus. But the app also raised concerns about the sheer amount of data gathered about Americans.
The administration was thinking of demanding the sale of American TikTok operations. The administration was ready to announce a sale order on Friday, according to three people familiar with the order. Another person later said that the decision has been suspended, pending further review by Trump.
White House adviser Peter Navarro said earlier in July that selling TikTok to an American buyer would not address US concerns.
Navarro said: “If TikTok divorced as an American company, that wouldn’t help us.” “Because it would be worse – we’ll have to give China billions of dollars in the franchise to operate TikTok on US soil.”
The acquisition of Microsoft would have given the software maker a popular consumer app that young people won with a consistent diet of dancer videos, lip-sync clips, and viral memes. The company has been involved in social media investments in the past but has not developed its own popular service in the lucrative sector.
TikTok has repeatedly rejected accusations that it is feeding user data to China or is being indebted to Beijing, although ByteDance is based there. TikTok now has a U.S.-based CEO, ByteDance has considered other regulatory changes to please the US authorities.
“Hundreds of millions of people come to TikTok for entertainment and communication, including a community of creators and artists who build livelihoods from the platform,” said TikTok spokeswoman. “We are driven by their passion and creativity, and committed to protecting their privacy and safety as we continue to work to bring happiness to the families and meaningful professions of those who create our platform.” – Bloomberg