Donald Trump to ban TikTok from the US this weekend

1 August 2020, 08:30

US President Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he could ban Chinese-owned app TikTok
US President Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he could ban Chinese-owned app TikTok. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The Chinese-owned TikTok video app will be banned in the US this weekend, President Donald Trump has announced.

He will take action as soon as Saturday to ban TikTok, a popular app that has been a source of national security and censorship concerns for several western countries in recent months.

Mr Trump told reporters on Air Force One: "As far as TikTok is concerned, we're banning them from the United States."

The president said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to enforce the action, insisting that "I have that authority" before declaring it would be signed today.

There have been rumours of US tech giants and financial firms being interested in buying or investing in TikTok, with reports suggesting Microsoft is in talks with Chinese tech company ByteDance, which launched the viral app in 2017.

In a statement on Friday, a TikTok spokesperson said: "While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.

"ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017, then bought, a video service popular with teens in the US and Europe, and combined the two. A twin service, Douyin, is available for Chinese users."

As of July this year, TikTok has over 800 million users worldwide and has soared in popularity amongst young people in Western countries, but also countries such as India, which counts for almost 200 million downloads of the app.

The app shows quick, fun and goofy videos and its ease of use has made it immensely popular, with US tech firms such as Facebook and Snapchat treating it as a serious competitor.

Its Chinese ownership, however, has raised concerns about the potential for sharing user data with Chinese officials and the censorship of videos, including those critical of the Chinese government.

Last year, a leaked document of the app moderators' guidelines showed instructions to censor videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence or the banned religious group Falun Gong.

Concerns were also raised that the app is actively silencing accounts highlighting the current protests in Hong Kong.

TikTok told users and regulators this week that it would be open and transparent, including allowing a review of the app's algorithms.

CEO of TikTok, Kevin Mayer, said in a post this week: "We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda - our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy."

He added: "TikTok has become the latest target, but we are not the enemy."