President Donald Trump might soon make good on a vow he made in early July to shut down TikTok,the popular music-video app, to punish China for unleashing COVID-19 onto the world and damaging his chances for reelection in November.
He's expected to sign an order directing ByteDance, Ltd, TikTok's parent company, to "divest its ownership" in the app's U.S. operations. U.S. political pundits, however, say Trump doesn't have the power to order a foreign company to sell a part of its business. On the other hand, Trump has the power to intervene in corporate deals under a 1988 law.
Trump has called Tiktok a risk to the national security of the United States. TikTok is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, Ltd. The Trump administration alleges ByteDance is illegally collecting user data through TikTok and sharing this with the Chinese government.
"We are looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok," said Trump at the White House Friday. "We are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok."
Trump foes, however, said Trump's anger at TikTok was triggered by the humiliating turnout at Trump's first COVID-19 era campaign rally at Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 21. Only 6,000 people out of expected 100,000 attended the rally.
Trump foes later took credit for sabotaging the rally. They said they used TikTok to reserve thousands of tickets in advance to prevent Trump loyalists from attending. They also used TikTok to flood Trump's 2020 campaign app with negative reviews.
ByteDance is also being criticized for working with the Communist Party of China (CPC) to censor and illegally monitor content the party deems a threat. Facebook Inc., has criticized TikTok for this alleged censorship. TikTok also has strategic partnerships with business firms in Beijing and Shanghai supported by the CPC.
TikTok was also labeled a security threat by India. On June 29, India banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps (including WeChat, UC Browser, ShareIt, Club Factory and CamScanner) as threats to its national security.
TikTok chooses to keep silent about Trump's allegations, however. A TikTok statement said the company doesn't comment "on rumors or speculation". It said it's confident in the long-term success of TikTok.
"Hundreds of millions of people come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, including our community of creators and artists who are building livelihoods from the platform," TikTok said in its statement to Business Insider.