President Donald Trump issued two executive orders late Thursday against Chinese-owned TikTok and messaging app WeChat, citing national security concerns.
The orders take effect in 45 days and prohibits any U.S. company or person from transacting with ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company or WeChat. That may mean the companies would not be able to appear on Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store in the U.S. It also might mean it would be illegal for U.S. companies to purchase advertising on TikTok.
The executive order leaves it unclear what specific transactions would be banned.
The orders signal increasing tensions in U.S.-Beijing relations in the run-up to the November elections. Trump had earlier threatened to ban TikTok from the U.S., citing national security concerns and also suggesting it would be retaliation for what he sees as China’s role in spreading the novel coronavirus.
Trump and other officials have expressed concern that data collected by TikTok could be shared with the Chinese government. TikTok has continually denied that and says it stores U.S. customer information in the U.S. But Trump has kept targeting the company over the past week by threatening to ban it and finally seemingly agreeing to let Microsoft buy it, if a deal closes quickly.
“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,” according to the TikTok order.
TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide said the company is reading the order and will have further comment soon.
On Monday, Trump told reporters at the White House that TikTok would be forced to cease U.S. operations by around Sept. 15 if it wasn’t sold to a U.S. company. He also said that if a sale goes through, part of the proceeds should go to U.S. taxpayers.
“A very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the treasury of the United States,” Trump said of the potential TikTok sale. “The United States should be reimbursed or paid because without the United States they don’t have anything.” The president added: “It’s a little bit like the landlord-tenant. Without a lease, the tenant has nothing. So they pay what’s called key money or they pay something.”
Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok and has also identified Sept. 15 as the deadline for talks to conclude.
Some experts believe that Trump has signed the order to speed ByteDance into a deal.
“The whole thing strikes me as Trump trying to put pressure on TikTok,” said James Lewis, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I think its a big pressure campaign to get ByteDance to move in the right direction.”