- President Donald Trump issued an executive order Thursday evening prohibiting US individuals and companies from making “any transactions” with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance.
- The order, set to take effect in 45 days, argues that TikTok “continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
- Trump also issued a similar order Thursday concerning transactions with WeChat, which is owned by a different Chinese company. It’s unclear the extent to which either order is legal or enforceable, and both are likely to face legal challenges.
- Microsoft has been in talks with ByteDance to acquire TikTok, and Trump said this week that he’d require any sale to an American company to include a “very big” cut going to the US government.
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President Donald Trump issued an executive order Thursday that bars US individuals and companies from doing business with TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese firm ByteDance, citing national security concerns.
The order, set to take effect 45 days from Thursday, prohibits “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”
Trump issued a nearly identical order shortly after targeting WeChat, which is owned by the Chinese internet giant Tencent, again citing national security concerns.
It’s unclear the extent to which either order is legal or enforceable, and both will most likely face challenges in court.
Both orders included a line saying: “The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
In the orders, Trump argues that TikTok and WeChat’s data-collection practices could “allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information – potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”
TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other US politicians and government agencies, including Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and several military and government agencies, have barred staff members from using TikTok over similar concerns. Experts, however, have pointed out that the app collects user data in similar ways as US-based competitors like Facebook.
The orders also accuse both apps of censoring content that the Chinese government considers “politically sensitive,” such as content about Hong Kong protests and its treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority group.
Trump has ratcheted up his threats against TikTok in particular over the past few weeks, saying he would ban the app entirely if ByteDance didn’t sell its stake in TikTok to an American company by September 15.
Microsoft declined to comment for this story.
Trump also promised to force any acquisition deal involving a US-based company to include a “very big proportion” of the sale price going to the US Treasury Department.
The president has the authority under a 1988 law to block foreign business deals pertaining to US companies if he considers the deals to be a national security threat, which he has used twice before to block deals involving firms from China and Singapore that were looking to acquire American companies.
Trump, who regularly blames the coronavirus pandemic on China and previously said his TikTok ban was meant to punish the country over its response, has also waged a years-long trade war with the country and previously penalised other Chinese tech companies including Huawei and ZTE.
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