President Trump on Friday night said he intends to “ban” the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok from operating in the U.S. “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One.
The president said he planned to take action against the social media platform as soon as Saturday, according to a pool report of his remarks. Trump said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to enact the ban, saying, “I have that authority.” He also made it clear that he would not be placated by an American company acquiring TikTok’s U.S. operations.
The announcement came hours after reports that Microsoft was in talks to purchase the immensely popular app from Beijing-based ByteDance. Officials have expressed concern that the Chinese government is using the app to tap user data and, according to Bloomberg, the U.S. has been investigating potential security risks.
TikTok has insisted it has never provided user data to China and that it would not do so if asked, saying in a statement that it has “no higher priority than promoting a safe app experience that protects our users’ privacy.” The company reiterated that claim again late Friday, while not addressing Trump’s “ban” threat directly.
“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 $1 billion creator fund supports US creators who are building livelihoods from our platform. TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access. 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.”
The app has become incredibly popular with teenagers and young people for its fun, short-form videos and has hundreds of millions of users worldwide.
In addition to privacy concerns, Trump has a recent history with the app. Last month, a ticket-reservation campaign reportedly coordinated on TikTok by Trump opponents, many of them teenagers and K-Pop fans, may have guaranteed that hundreds, even thousands of seats for his Tulsa rally remained empty.