The Trump administration is apparently considering a ban on Chinese social media apps, including the popular video app TikTok. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo mentioned the possibility on July 7th, saying it was’something we’re looking at’.
Pompeo compared TikTok to Huawei and ZTE, two companies that have suffered very real consequences after drawing US government ire. Trump trying to ban TikTok is n’t out of the question.
The most intense app bans happen at the network level, blocking any communications between the targeted servers and users in the country. The White House would be able to follow through on that kind of heavy-handed network censorship.
Tiktok has been banned from many government employees’ work phones, including members of the US military. But Huawei and ZTE sold components to telecom operators who, in turn, worked with government agencies. Tiktok is a consumer app, so that’s a much less serious punishment.
The committee on foreign investment in the U.S. opened a national security investigation into TikTok last year. Cfius cited similar concerns to Pompeo, and there’s enough evidence against the company to build a plausible case.
Tiktok says it stores American user data in the US. There’s a persistent concern that it could pass information to Chinese state agencies.
Cfius has rejected some high-profile merger and acquisition plans – including a Chinese company’s purchase of gay hookup app Grindr. The council could make TikTok restructure in a way that further separates its US presence from its Chinese one.
Getting removed from the iOS app store and Google Play store would reduce TikTok’s appeal. Apple keeps tight control over iOS devices; its app store policy is so restrictive that it’s spurred antitrust lawsuits.
The Trump administration does n’t need congressional approval to add TikTok on the’entity list’ that limits its ties to us companies. If TikTok were successfully added to the list, Apple and Google would have a hard time keeping them in the app store.
Unlike TikTok, Huawei is facing actual us criminal charges for racketeering and trade secret theft. The claims about TikTok are still suspicions, not legal complaints.
The White House is trying to warn investors away from Chinese companies. Even intermittent app store problems would slow its user growth and hurt advertising revenue.
A block that cuts us users off from TikTok’s network would be a real ban. President Trump threatened to shut down Facebook and Twitter. Even so, it could foreshadow attempts to limit how Americans can use the Internet.
President Trump has now personally threatened to ban the app using presidential authority. The app uses presidential authority authority to protect the app. It is the latest in a series of threats against the app.