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Trump to 'take action' in TikTok ban, Secretary of State warns

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declares video app 'cannot exist' in its current form following president's threat

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 03 August 2020 02:02 BST
Donald Trump: 'We may be banning TikTok'

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said Donald Trump is expected to “take action” against TikTok and other Chinese software in the coming days following the president’s threat on 31 July to “ban” the app from operating in the US over national security concerns, though it’s unclear how he would do so and what such an order would entail.

During an appearance on Fox News on Sunday, Mr Pompeo claimed that the app is “feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party, their national security apparatus – could be their facial recognition pattern, it could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends, who they’re connected to”.

“President Trump has said ‘enough’ and we’re going to fix it,” he said. “He will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party.”

Following the president’s remarks on Friday, the company denied the accusations, stressing that its user data is stored in the US ”with strict control on employee access”.

“These are the facts: 100 million Americans come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, especially during the pandemic,” the statement said. “We’ve hired nearly 1,000 people to our US team this year alone, and are proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the US ... Our $1bn creator fund supports US creators who are building livelihoods from our platform ... 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.”

“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” TikTok manager Vanessa Pappas said in a video message. “We’re here for the long run.”

On Sunday night it was reported that US tech giant Microsoft confirmed it is continuing talks to purchase the US operations of TikTok.

US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin also claimed on Sunday that an agreement that allows the video-sharing mobile app to remain in its current format would risk sending data to the Chinese government.

The US Committee on Foreign Investment, which the secretary chairs, is reviewing the app, which counts roughly 80 million monthly users

“I will say publicly that the entire committee agrees that TikTok cannot stay in the current format because it risks sending back information on 100 million Americans,” he told ABC. ”It cannot exist as it does.”

The allegations against the company and the administration’s combative response have underscored US-China tensions, which in recent weeks have heightened with the closure of China’s consulate in Houston following spying accusations, sanctions against high-ranking Chinese officials, and a June speech in which Mr Pompeo appeared to urge Chinese people to unseat their government.

China has also ordered the closure of a US consulate in Chengdu.

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