United States President, Donald Trump, has said Friday he will fully restrict popular social media app TikTok, from the United States as the recent ongoing debate by American authorities that the service could be a tool for Chinese intelligence, comes to a head.
US officials and lawmakers in recent weeks have voiced fears of the wildly popular video platform being used by Beijing for nefarious purposes, but the company has denied any links to the Chinese government.
Media reports circulated earlier Friday saying that Trump would require the US operations of the app be divested from its Chinese parent firm ByteDance, but the president announced a ban.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump said: “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.”
Trump is treating the TikTok ban as an emergency, saying he will take action as quickly as on Saturday, using emergency economic power or an executive order.
Trump’s move comes following a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) in the United States, which investigates deals affecting US national security.
TikTok, especially popular with young audiences who create and watch its short-form videos, has an estimated billion users worldwide.
“Hundreds of millions of people come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, including our community of creators and artists who are building livelihoods from the platform”, TikTok said, in response to an interview by AFP to decipher reactions.
TikTok further declined to comment on the reports of the forced sales, saying only: “We are confident in the long-term success of TikTok”.
“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,” TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer said in post this week.
“TikTok has become the latest target, but we are not the enemy.”
TikTok had earlier made moves to show the company’s earnestness, this week pledging a high level of transparency, including allowing reviews of its algorithms, to assure users and regulators.
The popularity of the platform surged after ByteDance acquired US-based app Musical.ly in 2017 and merged it with its own video service.
As Head of the technology policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, James Lewis said he believes the security risk of using TikTok is “close to zero” but that ByteDance could face pressure from China to engage in censorship.