Trump signs executive order to ban TikTok unless bought by U.S. company


Nicholas Tucker, Editor-in-Chief

In an executive order signed August 6 by President Donald Trump, TikTok will be effectively banned from operating in the United States in 45 days unless it is sold by its Chinese-based parent company, ByteDance Ltd. The executive order cites two main reasons for the ban: political censorship and data collection.

TikTok has been found by The Guardian and The Washington Post to be suppressing videos made to spread information about the Hong Kong protests which the Chinese government deems threatening. The app has also admitted to suppressing videos by LGBTQ and disabled users, claiming that it was to prevent them from being cyberbullied. TikTok said they have ended this policy.

The executive order, however, focuses more on the threat of data collection, allegations which in June led to the Indian government banning TikTok among other Chinese-based apps.

Many of the ways that TikTok collects data aren’t very different from the techniques used by other apps, and in some cases they are more restrained. Facebook and Reddit, for instance, also collect personal information and copy information while users aren’t in the app. Facebook in particular also collects call information and information of connected friends.

The part that has led to the most intense scrutiny is that ByteDance Ltd, and by extension TikTok, is legally required by the Chinese government’s 2017 National Intelligence Law to hand over any data upon request. This has already caused the app to be banned by many U.S. institutions.

“These risks are real,” Trump’s executive order states. “The Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Safety Administration, and the United States Armed Forces have already banned the use of TikTok on Federal Government phones.”

The fact that the Chinese 2017 National Intelligence Law applies specifically to Chinese companies is why President Trump’s executive order allows TikTok to remain in the U.S. if it is bought by a U.S. company. In a statement on August 2, Microsoft confirmed their interest in buying TikTok, a move that President Trump stated this week he would approve of.

“It can’t be controlled by China,” President Trump said. “I don’t mind if it’s, whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, a big company, very secure company, very American company, buy it.”

TikTok was rebranded from, which focused on the Chinese market, in 2017. Since then, it has become the second highest-downloaded app, beating Facebook Messenger and Twitter and only falling short of WhatsApp. It reached this success through the use of a powerful algorithm which observes a user’s activity while they scroll through the app, presenting content it deems is the most relevant whether or not they ever like or comment on anything.

TikTok drew President Trump’s attention earlier this year when many users claimed to have registered for hundreds of thousands of tickets to his Tulsa rally. The Trump campaign boasted about the millions of registered attendees, and according to the Tulsa Fire Department, only about 6,200 people actually attended. These substantially lower numbers were regarded by many to be an embarrassment for the Trump campaign.

To read the full text of the executive order, follow this link.