President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that prohibits any U.S. citizen or company from conducting business with Chinese-owned TikTok beginning in 45 days.
The ban, which applies to TikTok’s parent company ByteDance and its subsidiaries, puts pressure on Microsoft to address the U.S. government’s national security concerns as part of its effort to buy the popular short-form video app’s U.S. operations. The president said on Monday that he would give Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Washington, a month and a half to make a move.
The executive order said, “Any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” would be prohibited “with ByteDance … or its subsidiaries” within 45 days.
“Any transaction by a United States person or within the United States that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate the prohibition set forth in this order” as well as “any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order” will also be prohibited, the order said.
Trump justified his actions by saying, “additional steps must be taken to deal with the national emergency” declared under a 2019 executive order on securing information and communications in the U.S.
“Specifically, the spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Trump said, adding that “at this time, action must be taken to address the threat posed by one mobile application in particular, TikTok.”
He empowered the commerce secretary to enact and enforce the executive order under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
“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. 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,” Trump wrote. “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.”
A separate Trump executive order also targeted the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat, owned by the massive Chinese conglomerate Tencent. Trump called WeChat a “similar threat” to TikTok, arguing that the app’s data collection “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.” The order banned transactions between WeChat and U.S. persons and companies beginning in 45 days.
“They will sanction transactions only as defined by the secretary of Commerce — could include all transactions over which the U.S. can exercise jurisdiction,” a Trump administration official told the Washington Examiner. “The first order blocks all transactions in which TikTok’s owner or its subsidiaries have an interest. The second order blocks all transactions related to WeChat with the app’s owner or its subsidiaries.”
ByteDance and TikTok have repeatedly claimed that they have not and would never turn over TikTok user data to the Chinese government, but national security experts have raised concerns about China’s own 2017 national intelligence law, which requires all Chinese companies to assist Chinese intelligence services when asked — and to keep it secret.
On Monday, Trump said that TikTok would “close down” in the U.S. by Sept. 15 unless Microsoft or another U.S. company works out a deal approved by his administration to buy the video-sharing social media platform. That was one day after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, said, “The entire committee agrees that TikTok cannot stay in the current format because it risks sending back information on a hundred million Americans.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday that the State Department’s “Clean Network” program efforts would be expanding, calling for a “Clean Fortress” to protect information and communications in the United States from foreign countries such as China. He said he would be building upon the Trump administration’s “comprehensive approach to guarding our citizens’ privacy and our companies’ most sensitive information from aggressive intrusions by malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party” by adding five new lines of effort, dubbed Clean Carrier, Clean Store, Clean Apps, Clean Cloud, and Clean Cable.
The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report in June detailing how China is focusing on U.S. communications the same way it has targeted education, research, and personal data. The investigation found the Chinese government “exerts control over China’s domestic telecommunications industry and state-owned carriers” while it “engages in cyber and economic espionage efforts against the United States” and “may use telecommunications carriers operating in the United States to further these efforts.”
The House voted by a large margin to block federal employees from using TikTok in July, and the Senate joined it on Wednesday. The ban is expected to become law soon. Joe Biden’s presidential campaign told staff to delete TikTok from their phones.
Trump’s order added that “these risks are real” as he noted that TikTok has reportedly been downloaded in the U.S. more than 175 million times and more than a billion times worldwide. He pointed out that the U.S. military, Homeland Security Department, and the Transportation Security Agency have all banned TikTok, as have many U.S. companies and organizations, along with India.
“The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,” Trump said.
After a conversation between Trump and its CEO, Microsoft said Sunday night that the U.S. company would continue exploring the purchase of TikTok’s operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and, if the purchase happens, it pledged to “ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.”
Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s general manager in the U.S., vowed over the weekend that “we’re not going anywhere.”
Author: Jerry Dunleavy
Source: Washington Examiner: Trump signs executive order that bans transactions with Chinese-owned TikTok in 45 days