President Trump said he plans to ban Chinese-owned TikTok, a popular app, from the United States as soon as Saturday.
Mr. Trump told reporters gathered on Air Force One on Friday night that he intended to act immediately against the video-based social media app.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Mr. Trump said.
Asked about Mr. Trump’s decision, TikTok did not comment on the president’s new policy but pointed to the company’s U.S. connections.
“These are the facts: 100 million Americans come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, especially during the pandemic,” a TikTok spokesperson said in an email on Saturday. “We’ve hired nearly 1,000 people to our U.S. team this year alone, and are proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the U.S.”
How Mr. Trump intends to block TikTok is unclear. Mr. Trump pointed to emergency economic powers or an executive order as a possible means of banning the app, telling reporters: “I have that authority.”
The move comes as Mr. Trump has ratcheted up tensions with China during the coronavirus pandemic and stalled trade negotiations between the two nations.
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said earlier this week he was involved in the administration’s review of the app, and his department could play an important role in implementing any ban.
Whether Mr. Trump can legally block TikTok from the U.S. is a matter of debate. Several federal government agencies and political campaigns have already directed their employees to not use or download the TikTok app. Mandating that private individuals do likewise would prove much more challenging.
“Banning an app like TikTok, which millions of Americans use to communicate with each other, is a danger to free expression and technologically impractical,” the American Civil Liberties Union said Saturday on Twitter.
Others view TikTok as a potential threat to U.S. election security. Seven Republican senators wrote to the leadership of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence earlier this week to determine whether the Chinese Communist Party is using TikTok to interfere in the 2020 election.
“TikTok has become a popular forum for Americans — particularly younger Americans — to engage in political conversations,” the senators wrote. “We are greatly concerned that the CCP could use its control over TikTok to distort or manipulate these conversations to sow discord among Americans and to achieve its preferred political outcomes.”
The company’s operations in the U.S. has been under review by the secretive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
TikTok has rejected the idea that it poses any security threat and has said it will not turn over any data to the Chinese.
“TikTok U.S. user data is stored in the U.S., with strict controls on employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors come from the U.S.,” the TikTok spokesperson said in the email. “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.”
• This article was based in part on wire service reports.
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