According to Reuters, ByteDance, the China-based parent company of TikTok, has offered to sell its U.S. operations of TikTok in an attempt to save the popular app from being banned by President Trump.
Reports of a potential U.S. ban began circulating weeks ago, but Trump floated the idea again in a press conference with reporters on Friday night aboard Air Force One. “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.” Trump then claimed he could use an executive order or emergency economic powers to enforce the legislation.
ABOARD AF1 - Potus says he plans to terminate the social media platform Tik-Tok in the US using presidential authority.— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 1, 2020
But as Adi Robertson points out in The Verge, Trump’s blustering is at odds with his administration’s ability to actually implement a total ban on the app. Any attempt to do so would likely be challenged with a lawsuit immediately.
So why does the President of the United States want to ban an app that’s populated with videos of grandmothers playing ukuleles? Well, White House officials have long claimed that TikTok poses a national security threat because its parent company is based in China. The concern is that, under Chinese security law, Beijing could force TikTok to hand over user data. As a result, companies like Wells Fargo and government agencies like the TSA have asked employees to delete the app from their work phones, citing surveillance and espionage risks.
Meanwhile, ByteDance and TikTok executives have done everything they can short of serving Mike Pompeo a delicious slice of homemade apple pie to cozy up to U.S. policymakers. They hired a former Disney executive to be TikTok’s new CEO and sent 35 lobbyists to Washington D.C. to try and convince congress that the company is loyal to the interests of the United States. Then on Saturday morning, TikTok U.S. General Manager Vanessa Pappas, seemingly in response to Trump’s mention of a ban, posted a video saying, “We’re not planning on going anywhere.”
ByteDance’s offer to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok is a significant give. They had previously requested to maintain a minority stake in the app’s U.S. business, but the White House rejected the offer. Whether or not Trump accepts this new deal will indicate if his threat of a ban was a negotiating tactic aimed at protecting U.S. citizens' right to privacy or more maniacal posturing meant to curb the app’s rampant popularity among savvy teenagers capable of torpedoing his beloved rallies.
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