President Donald Trump has said he will take action on Saturday to ban TikTok, a popular Chinese-owned video app that has been a source of national security and censorship concerns.
Trump’s comments came after reports were released that the administration was planning to order ByteDance to sell TikTok. It was also reported on Friday that software giant Microsoft was in talks to purchase the app.
“As for TikTok, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters Friday on Air Force One as he returned from Florida.
Trump said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to enforce the action, insisting “I have this authority. He added: “It will be signed tomorrow.”
Bloomberg News and Wall Street Journal reports citing anonymous sources said the administration may soon announce a decision ordering ByteDance to divest its stake in TikTok.
There have been reports that U.S. tech giants and financial firms are interested in buying or investing in TikTok as the Trump administration turns to the app. The New York Times and Fox Business, citing an unidentified source, reported on Friday that Microsoft was in talks to buy TikTok. Microsoft declined to comment.
TikTok issued a statement Friday saying that “while we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in TikTok’s long-term success.”
ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017, then bought Musical.ly, a video service popular with teens in the US and Europe, and combined the two. A twin service, Douyin, is available for Chinese users.
TikTok’s fun, wacky videos and ease of use have made it hugely popular, and US tech giants like Facebook and Snapchat see it as a competitive threat. He said he has tens of millions of US users and hundreds of millions around the world.
But its Chinese ownership has raised concerns about the censorship of videos, including those critical of the Chinese government, and the potential for user data sharing with Chinese authorities.
TikTok maintains that it does not censor videos based on China-sensitive topics, and that it would not give the Chinese government access to U.S. user data, even if asked. The company hired a US CEO, a former senior Disney executive, in an attempt to distance itself from its Chinese ownership.
U.S. national security officials have looked into the Musical.ly acquisition in recent months, while the U.S. military has banned its employees from installing TikTok on government-issued phones. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month that the United States is considering banning TikTok.
These national security concerns match a broader US security crackdown on Chinese companies, including telecom providers Huawei and ZTE. The Trump administration has ordered the United States to stop funding the equipment of these suppliers in American networks. He also tried to push his allies away from Huawei over concerns over the Chinese government’s access to data, which the company has denied having.
The Trump administration has previously intervened to block or dissolve deals over national security concerns, including barring Singapore’s Broadcom from its $ 117 billion bid on U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm in 2018 to help maintain American leadership in the telecommunications space. He also asked Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. to sell its 2016 purchase of the gay dating app Grindr.
Other countries are also taking action against TikTok. India this month banned dozens of Chinese apps, including TikTok, citing privacy concerns, amid tensions between countries.