Donald Trump says he’s banning the popular video-sharing app TikTok from the United States, but TikTok officials say the company is going nowhere.
He made the statement to reporters Friday night on Air Force One as he was returning to Washington, D.C., from a fundraising trip to Florida, NBC News reports.
“I have that authority,” he said, pledging to issue an executive order as early as Saturday or use his emergency powers to do so.
TikTok, which is popular with LGBTQ+ users and many others, is owned by the China-based ByteDance, and its ownership has led to security concerns.
“Chinese law can compel any domestic company to hand over data it has collected on users,” NBC notes. TikTok claims to be a U.S. company and therefore exempt from these demands, but the Chinese government has recently indicated that it considers TikTok a domestic Chinese company. China has also been accused of censoring content its government finds unacceptable, even though the app is not available there.
But Trump may have a grudge against TikTok. Users of the app, who are mostly young people, boasted that they had reduced the turnout for his June 20 rally in Tulsa, Okla., by reserving seats and then not showing up. A TikTok user posted a video suggesting the move, and another user put the idea on Twitter as well. However, there’s no evidence that their action was the cause of the rally’s poor attendance, which infuriated Trump.
The president also appears to have a grudge against China, as he has blamed the country for spreading COVID-19 to the U.S. The virus did originate in China, although cases came to the U.S. from Europe as well.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which looks at possible national security threats from overseas companies that buy U.S. properties, has been scrutinizing ByteDance for several months. Meanwhile, Microsoft is in negotiations to buy TikTok, The New York Times reports, although Microsoft declined to confirm that. Trump has said he didn’t support a Microsoft-TikTok deal.
TikTok also declined to confirm rumors of the sale, but the talks are now on pause given Trump's opposition, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Meanwhile, a TikTok spokesperson said the app will not be leaving the U.S. and that it does not share U.S. users' data with the Chinese government. Its U.S. general manager, Vanessa Pappas, released a video Saturday on Twitter defending the company. The American Civil Liberties Union also tweeted its opposition to Trump's plan to ban the app, saying a ban was a threat to freedom of expression.