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Donald Trump orders ByteDance to sell its TikTok business in US in 90 days, cites national security

In an earlier order issued on August 7, Trump prohibited the China-based company from doing business with US firms after 45 days.

SNS | New Delhi |

US President Donald Trump has issued an executive order to direct China-based ByteDance to sell its TikTok business in the US within 90 days.

“There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” Trump wrote in the order issued on Friday.

In an earlier order issued on August 7, Trump prohibited the China-based company from doing business with US firms after 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.

ByteDance 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.

President Donald Trump has also ordered ban on transactions starting in 45 days with messenger app WeChat’s owner Tencent.

Meanwhile, TikTok has already threatened legal action against the first executive order.

The new executive order directed ByteDance to “divest any data it obtained from users of TikTok or Musical.ly in the United States”.

It also authorised US officials to inspect TikTok and ByteDance to ensure the safety of personal data of nearly 80 million American users of the short video making app.

The earlier executive orders were issued amid discussion by Microsoft to purchase the US business of TikTok by September 15.

Microsoft had revealed its intention to purchase TikTok’s US business following a discussion between the company’s CEO and the US President.

However, reports surfaced that the Microsoft-TikTok deal may not happen as odds of the deal are “not higher than 20 per cent”.

The probability of Microsoft buying TikTok is “not higher than 20 per cent” since the initial price offered by the US software giant was akin to “robbing the owner when his house is on fire”, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

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.

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.