US President Donald Trump on Friday said that he would bar the fast-growing social media app TikTok from the nation, as US authorities have raised concerns over the service being a tool for Chinese intelligence.
US officials and lawmakers in the past few weeks have voiced fears of the wildly popular video-sharing platform being used by Beijing for nefarious purposes, but the company has denied any links to the Chinese government.
Media reports circulated earlier on Friday saying that Trump would require the US operations of the app be divested from its Chinese parent firm ByteDance Ltd (字節跳動).
However, speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump said: “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.”
He added that he would take action as soon as yesterday using emergency economic power or an executive order.
However, it was unclear how such a move might be enforced.
TikTok, especially popular with young audiences who create and watch its short videos, is estimated to have 1 billion users.
Representatives for the app declined to comment on the reports of the forced sales, saying only: “We are confident in the long-term success of TikTok. Hundreds of millions of people come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, including our community of creators and artists who are building livelihoods from the platform.”
Trump’s move follows a review by the US Committee on Foreign Investment, which investigates deals affecting US national security.
The video-sharing platform this week pledged a high level of transparency, including allowing reviews of its algorithms, to assure users and regulators.
“We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda — our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy,” TikTok chief executive officer Kevin Mayer said in post. “TikTok has become the latest target, but we are not the enemy.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month told Fox News that the US administration was “looking at” banning the app in the US.
The comments prompted popular TikTok users to consider migrating to platforms such as YouTube, the New York Times reported.
Late on Friday, TikTok users reacted furiously to the news, telling fans to follow them on different platforms and criticizing Trump.
Earlier reports had suggested that Microsoft was in talks to acquire TikTok, which could be valued in the tens of billions of dollars, but Trump’s move would scupper such a purchase.
James Lewis, head of the technology policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he believes the security risk of using TikTok is “close to zero,” but that ByteDance could face pressure from China to engage in censorship.
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