U.S allies mull restriction on TikTok, citing same national security concerns
By Chris Mills Rodrigo, THE HILL, 08/07/20
TikTok on Friday responded to President Trump‘s executive order banning the company from operating in the U.S. in 45 days, saying it shows “no adherence to the law.”
The social media company went on to promise to “pursue all remedies available to us.”
“We are shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process,” the short-form video sharing platform said.
Trump’s executive order issued late Thursday night justified the ban by citing national security concerns based on TikTok’s ties to China.
The short-form video app’s parent company, ByteDance, is headquartered in and operates out of Beijing, though TikTok claims its American data has been moved to servers in the U.S.
The president issued another executive order on Thursday night applying the same ban on transactions with the Chinese owners of messaging app WeChat.
The order invokes the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act. The White House making such a move is unusual and will likely face a legal challenge.
Trump could force ByteDance to divest from TikTok through the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), but the president has seemingly skipped over that process.
TikTok said Friday that the order sets a “dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets.”
It also pointed toward discussions over a sale of the portions of TikTok based in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to Microsoft. Microsoft pledged to conclude discussions by September 15th after discussions with Trump.
“We even expressed our willingness to pursue a full sale of the U.S. business to an American company,” TikTok said.
US ally Australia is reportedly looking at TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance to see whether it poses a security threat to the country’s 25 million citizens, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying the government was scrutinizing the relationship “very closely.”
India, where TikTok was once massively popular with young members of its population, banned the app in June amid a military standoff between the two countries.
India’s information technology ministry issued a statement saying that it had received reports that TikTok and other Chinese apps were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data.”
Pakistan, meanwhile, in late July warned TikTok that it could not continue hosting “immoral, obscene, and vulgar content,” and gave the company a “final warning” to “put in place a comprehensive mechanism” to moderate its content.
Japan’s government last week began looking into banning TikTok on its shores over concerns about Beijing using the data that it collects. TikTok has said 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.”
But TikTok’s biggest problem remains in the United States – where Trump has told the company that it must come to an agreement to sell at least its US business to “a very American company” by Sept. 15 or be banned.
Trump told reporters at the White House this week that he’s personally involved in brokering a potential deal with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming told employees in an email that a forced sale is “unreasonable,” and said the US wants to see TikTok fail. “A sale is not their goal, or even what they want,” he wrote. “Their real objective is to achieve a comprehensive ban.”