President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday evening that will prevent American companies from engaging in commerce with Bytedance, the Chinese parent-company of the video-sharing app TikTok, beginning in 45 days.
The executive order comes less than a week after Trump suggested he would soon take action against TikTok, which has been the subject of cyber-security concerns, and effectively sets a deadline for an American company to buy the video-sharing app, reports The Wall Street Journal.
“TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories,” reads the executive order. “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.”
“TikTok also reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive, such as content concerning protests in Hong Kong and China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. This mobile application may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus,” reads the order.
TikTok has denied that it sends data to the Chinese government.
Earlier this week, Microsoft publicly acknowledged for the first time that it was in discussions to acquire TikTok for the American market, and also revealed it could potentially acquire the video-sharing app for Canadian and Australian markets as well.
While Microsoft revealed that these discussions would be finalized by Sept. 15 — a date the president has also mentioned — Trump’s new executive order seemingly puts a firm deadline on the conclusion of the talks.
Trump has also said that any deal between TikTok and an American buyer would require the Department of the Treasury to receive “a lot of money,” although the president did not float a specific percentage or figure.
Microsoft seemingly acknowledged the president’s position in a blog post Sunday, after speaking with him over the phone, but before he made the remarks about the Treasury Department getting a cut from the deal.
Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.
Even if TikTok manages to find an American buyer, federal lawmakers have expressed concerns that the deal would sufficiently address their issues with the app.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters Sunday that any potential deal could still leave questions about China’s influence.
Speaking to Fox Business earlier this week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said that any deal between Microsoft and ByteDance would require TikTok to sever all ties with China.
“It can’t just be data and servers housed in the United States,” he said. “There can be no code, there could be no algorithms, there can be no ties whatsoever between a new U.S.-based TikTok and ByteDance [or] China.”
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