Politics & Policy

Trump Admin. Weighing Options for TikTok Ban

The TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone while on the U.S. flag, November 8, 2019. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

The Trump administration is exploring options for banning TikTok on American phones and other devices because of national security risks, the Financial Times reported on Thursday evening.

Scrutiny of TikTok has increased sharply over suspicions that user data collected by the app can be transferred to and viewed by Chinese government officials. TikTok is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, and while TikTok asserts that it stores data in the U.S. and Singapore, its privacy policy says the company “may share…information with a parent, subsidiary, or other affiliate of our corporate group.”

One proposal being considered by the Trump administration would see ByteDance placed on the “entity list” of the commerce department. Doing so would greatly hinder American companies from providing technology to TikTok, and app stores including on Apple would be prevented from providing software updates.

“We are going to send a very strong message to China,” a senior U.S. official told the Financial Times. The official said the administration would make its decision within a month.

Another proposal would be to declare TikTok an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to national security under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977. The law authorizes the president to block certain transactions seen to threaten national security. President Trump threatened to invoke the law in 2019 to force certain companies to leave China, but did not follow through on the threat.

TikTok and ByteDance have added to their U.S. lobbying teams in recent months in response to growing scrutiny by the Trump administration. ByteDance has hired the lobbying firm of David Urban, Trump’s former Pennsylvania campaign chairman.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was “looking at” banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps over data-collection concerns. India has banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps after border clashes with Chinese soldiers saw 20 Indian troops killed.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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