At a moment in an election year where he is seen trailing in most national polls to rival Joe Biden, American President Donald Trump is flexing his executive muscle by spending time attacking ByteDance's TikTok.
Yesterday, Trump issued an Executive Order in the United States to compel closure of TikTok to American users within 45 days. Trump's neurotic attack was stoked in part by a recent incident where TikTok users "sabotaged" one of his American political rallies by buying up tickets to the rally and then not attending.
The presidential edict from yesterday reads, in part:
TikTok, a video-sharing mobile application owned by the Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., has reportedly been downloaded over 175 million times in the United States and over one billion times globally. TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.
TikTok also reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive, such as content concerning protests in Hong Kong and China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. This mobile application may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
These risks are real. The Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, and the United States Armed Forces have already banned the use of TikTok on Federal Government phones. The Government of India recently banned the use of TikTok and other Chinese mobile applications throughout the country; in a statement, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asserted that they were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.” American companies and organizations have begun banning TikTok on their devices. The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security.
Accordingly, I hereby order:
Section 1. (a) The following actions shall be prohibited beginning 45 days after the date of this order, to the extent permitted under applicable law: any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd. (a.k.a. Zìjié Tiàodòng), Beijing, China, or its subsidiaries, in which any such company has any interest, as identified by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) under section 1(c) of this order.
(b) The prohibition in subsection (a) of this section applies except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted before the date of this order.
(c) 45 days after the date of this order, the Secretary shall identify the transactions subject to subsection (a) of this section.
Sec. 2. (a) Any transaction by a United States person or within the United States that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate the prohibition set forth in this order is prohibited.
(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.
Companies like Microsoft and Sequoia Capital are reported to be in talks to buy the foreign operations of ByteDance's TikTok.