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Donald Trump orders ban on transactions with Chinese owners of TikTok, WeChat in 45 days

‘The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,’ Trump said in an executive order.

SNS | New Delhi |

Amid flaring tensions between the United States and China, President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered that a ban on interacting with popular social media platform TikTok or its Chinese parent company takes effect in 45 days.

Issuing an executive order to address the “threat” posed by TikTok, Trump said that beginning in 45 days, any transaction subject to US jurisdiction with ByteDance is prohibited.

“The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,” he said in the order.

After taking effect, the order will bar “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd” or any company in which it has an interest.

China-based ByteDance owns TikTok, which has its US headquarters in Southern California.

Trump’s order contended the step is needed to “deal with the national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and services supply chain.”

The TikTok mobile application has been downloaded some 175 million times in the US and more than a billion times around the world, according to the order.

“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,” the order contended.

“This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”

Data from TikTok could potentially be used by China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers on people for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage, the order speculated.

The Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, and the United States Armed Forces have already banned the use of TikTok on federal government phones, according to Trump’s order.

Meanwhile, the President, in a letter to the US Congressional leaders, also said that he is banning any transaction starting in 45 days with messenger app WeChat’s owner Tencent.

President Donald Trump, who has locked horns with China on a range of issues including trade and the Coronavirus pandemic, has set a deadline of mid-September for TikTok to be acquired by a US firm or be banned in the United States.

Microsoft has expanded its talks on TikTok to a potential deal that would include buying the global operations of the fast-growing video-sharing app, the Financial Times reported Thursday.

Microsoft, however, declined to comment on the report, after previously disclosing it was considering a deal for TikTok operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Facing threats of a US ban and smears by rival Facebook, popular video-sharing app TikTok was, a few days earlier, compelled to respond to what observers describe as an effort to rip up the Chinese-owned firm and reap their own commercial, political benefits and monopolize the tech economy.

ByteDance, the owner of the video platform, said in the course of becoming a global firm, it has “faced all kinds of complex and unimaginable difficulties, including the tense international political environment, collision and conflict of different cultures and plagiarism and smears from competitor Facebook.”

The company vowed to strive for its vision of globalization, strictly abide by local laws, and actively safeguard its legitimate interests and rights.

Late last month, Donald Trump had said that he he will ban fast-growing social media app TikTok from the United States as American authorities have raised concerns the service could be used by Chinese intelligence.

Earlier in July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.

Trump’s announcement comes days after India, in a diplomatic reaction to Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, last week banned 47 more apps in addition to the 59 Chinese applications, including TikTok, Shareit, UC Browser and Xiaomi’s Mi Community over national security concerns on June 29.

The United States had widely encouraged the action and some prominent lawmakers also urged the American government to follow suit as it is believed that the short video-sharing app TikTok is a major security risk to the country.

The US-China military frictions are on the rise with the US navy stepping its patrols in the disputed South China Sea as well as the Taiwan Straits. Washington and Beijing are also engaged in a war of words over the origin of the Coronavirus pandemic and also on trade deals.

(With agency inputs)