Trump signs executive order over ‘threat’ posed by TikTok

Donald Trump has previously said app must be sold or risk being shut down in US

Andrew Naughtie
Friday 07 August 2020 09:43 BST
TikTok fights to hang on as Trump threatens to ban video app: 'We’re here for the long run’

Donald Trump has signed an executive order that will ban all dealings with the owners of the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, apparently acting on his repeated threat to ban it altogether.

Depending on how the order is interpreted, it may effectively require Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores, as was called for this week by secretary of state Mike Pompeo. However, it is unclear whether Mr Trump has the legal authority to order that.

Signed alongside a similar attack on Chinese app WeChat, the order comes into effect in 45 days’ time, at which time all transactions with parent company ByteDance will be banned in the US. It does not explain what it means by “transactions” – and depending how the order is in interpreted, that could extend as far as users accepting the app’s terms and conditions when installing it on their phones.

Mr Trump’s order comes after months of tough talk from the his administration directed at all aspects of Chinese government’s behaviour, from trade and data espionage to the treatment of Uighur people in Xinjiang province and the rollout of restrictive governance in Hong Kong.

The order cites many of these grievances, pointing out that TikTok “reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive” and “may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party” – including false claims related to the coronavirus pandemic.

TikTok’s critics also claim the app can also be used to collect reams of information about its users from their devices, and has already been banned by the US government from federal employees’ phones. Citing these concerns, the order points to a recent decision by the Indian government to ban the app throughout the country, claiming it sent children’s data back to servers in China.

Mr Trump has been threatening to ban TikTok for some time. Last week, he said he was planning to do so in a matter of days, but at the weekend was apparently dissuaded by Microsoft, which says it is in talks to buy the app “subject to a complete security review”.

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