IS IT ACTUALLY BANNED?
President Donald Trump may be up against his toughest opponents yet: the somewhat politically active, trendy dancing, K-Pop loving teenagers of the popular social media app Tiktok.
“As far as TikTok is concerned we’re banning them from the United States,” President Trump said on July 31st aboard Air Force One.
In the midst of a global pandemic and the BLM movement, why has Trump set his sights on getting rid of an app, though? The concern lies with the owners of TikTok, the Chinese company ByteDance.
U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns that the app could be used to spy on American users. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) have both stated that they want the U.S. Intelligence Agency to assess the security risks of TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News that Americans should be wary of TikTok, unless they want their information “in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
It is important to note TikTok’s international version (the one popularized by American users) is actually banned in China—ByteDance operates an identical app there called Douyin, and data for that app is presumably stored within China.
TikTok has since said in a statement that its user data is stored in the U.S. with strict control on employee access. It also said that the app’s biggest investors come from within the U.S., and that the app is a job creator that is “proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the U.S.”
Trump’s threat remains, regardless of their statement . He signed an executive order on August 6 that would ban both TikTok and the Chinese messaging app WeChat from operating in the U.S. unless they were sold by their Chinese parent companies within 45 days.
Microsoft has stated that it will be completing its discussions with ByteDance regarding the acquiring of the app “no later than September 15, 2020.” Even though that does fit in within the 45 day deadline, Trump has since stated he would not support a Microsoft takeover.
But China might not be the only reason Trump wants to ban the app—pure spite might have a part to play in it. Back in June, TikTok users claimed at least partial responsibility for the low turnout of Trump’s Tulsa Rally, reportedly by registering hundreds of thousands of tickets for the rally as a prank. While this trend started with fans of Korean pop music, it quickly spread on TikTok, with videos with millions of views instructing viewers to reserve seats at a rally they had no plans of attending.
“I think his people have told him enough that ‘Yeah, it did have an effect on your Tulsa rally,’” says Mary Jo Laupp, one of the organizers of the trend against Trump’s rally in a statement in Forbes Magazine. “I think that these Gen-Zers made him look bad.”
This sudden concern with national privacy is especially ironic when one remembers that this is the same president who has been extremely reluctant to recognize the accusations of hacking from the Russian government. This is also the same president who openly invited Russia to hack his political opponent while on the campaign trail. Needless to say, the sudden concern when it comes to a social media app is strange.
But even with Trump’s threats, TikTok is still up on the app store. According to the runners of the app, that isn’t changing any time soon.
“We’ve heard your outcries, and we want to say thank you,” said TikTok U.S. General Manager Vanessa Pappas in a message to the app’s community. “We’re not planning on going anywhere.”