On Friday night, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he could use the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to institute the TikTok ban, according to a pool report via David Cloud of the Los Angeles Times. “Well, I have that authority,” Trump said. “I can do it with an executive order or that,” referring to the emergency economic powers. Per the pool report, Trump plans to ban TikTok, which may boast as many as 70 million active users in the U.S. and more than 800 million worldwide, as soon as today.
In July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that U.S. citizens should only download TikTok “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” Pompeo’s comments followed the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) move in June to designate two Chinese companies, Huawei and ZTE, as national security threats, saying officials could no longer use money from its $8.3 billion Universal Service Fund to “purchase, obtain, maintain, improve, modify, or otherwise support any equipment or services produced or provided by these suppliers.”
“China has a very different legal framework and perspective on the rule of law,” Andrea Little Limbago, chief social scientist at Virtru, an encryption and privacy company, told Popular Mechanics last year. “TikTok claims they do not store data in China, but this is difficult to validate and does not address data privacy concerns prior to February 2019.” (That’s when TikTok was fined for its data privacy usage.)
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin leads, has ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok. As of Friday, ByteDance was in talks to sell TikTok to Microsoft, according to the New York Times. Another option: Non-Chinese investors could purchase a majority stake in the app to quell the U.S.’s concerns, per the Times.
So far, however, Trump doesn’t seem amenable to a U.S. company buying or assuming majority ownership of TikTok.