President Donald Trump told reporters on July 31 he will act as soon as Aug. 1 to ban Chinese-owned video app TikTok from the United States, NBC News reported.
Trump made the comments on Air Force One while chatting with reporters during the flight back to Washington from Florida.
“As far as TikTok is concerned we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump said, calling the action a “severance”.
Trump did not specify how he will act though, be it through executive order or another way, NBC News said.
“Well, I have that authority. I can do it with an executive order or that,” Trump said.
Rise of TikTok
The rise of TikTok in the U.S. has prompted the Trump administration to scrutinise the app.
Trump said earlier on July 31 that the administration was looking at various options for what to do with TikTok, including banning the app.
Earlier in July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. was looking at banning TikTok, as well as other Chinese social media apps.
He cited national security concerns.
Pompeo added that the Trump administration was evaluating TikTok akin to Chinese state-backed tech companies Huawei and ZTE, which he has previously described as “Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence”.
The Pentagon has taken concrete steps to discourage U.S. service members and their families from using Chinese-backed tech.
Microsoft in talks to buy TikTok?
Trump’s comments come after Microsoft reportedly held talks to buy the TikTok video-sharing mobile app from Chinese owner ByteDance, one person close to the situation told CNBC.
The talks are said to be not new and have been going on for some time.
Trump told reporters he didn’t support the deal involving Microsoft buying TikTok, NBC News reported.
A TikTok acquisition could make Microsoft more concentrated on consumer technology, which Microsoft has pivoted away from in recent years.
As a major provider of business software, Microsoft had exited the smartphone hardware, fitness hardware and e-book markets.
Microsoft had been consistent in its strategy on acquiring “networked assets” with many users, including LinkedIn, Amy Hood, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, said in 2018.
TikTok helped create jobs in U.S.
A TikTok spokesperson told NBC News that the app helped to create jobs across the U.S. and was committed to user privacy.
“We’ve hired nearly 1,000 people to our U.S. team this year alone, and are proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the U.S.,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“Our US$1 billion creator fund supports U.S. creators who are building livelihoods from our platform."
“TikTok U.S. user data is stored in the U.S., with strict controls on employee access,” the statement added.
“TikTok’s biggest investors come from the U.S. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”
TikTok in a time of Covid-19
Chinese company ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017.
The app has grown more popular during the Covid-19 pandemic, with two billion downloads in April.
Competitors include Facebook and Snap.
ByteDance investors seeking to take over TikTok have valued it at US$50 billion, Reuters reported.
Microsoft declined to comment on the talks, which were first reported by Fox Business Network.
“While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok,” TikTok said in a statement Friday.