After weeks of tension and threats of a U.S. ban on fast-growing social media giant TikTok, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order late Thursday that would bar any U.S. company from doing business with TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance after the next 45 days.
This comes days after Trump told reporters that ByteDance had until around September 15th to sell TikTok’s U.S. operations, hinting at a government ban on the app if TikTok was not sold in that timeframe. Microsoft is pursuing an acquisition of TikTok, the tech giant confirmed in a blog post on August 2nd, after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had a conversation with Trump. Microsoft also said it wants to on finalize a TikTok deal by September 15th.
But Thursday’s order appears to add a complication to a potential deal. “Specifically, the spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” the order says. “At this time, action must be taken to address the threat posed by one mobile application in particular, TikTok.” The order does not specify exactly what business transactions would be prohibited with ByteDance, nor does it mention the deal in progress with Microsoft.
The Trump administration has repeatedly threatened a ban on TikTok, citing the company’s Chinese ties and reported threats to national security. While the government has cited fears on privacy for American users’ data, TikTok has maintained that it doesn’t hand over data to the Chinese government, and that its servers are in the U.S. with backup servers in Singapore.
TikTok responded to the executive order on Friday, saying the company was shocked by the executive order and once again reiterating it doesn’t share its data with China or censor content on the Chinese government’s request. “This Executive Order risks undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law, which has served as a magnet for investment and spurred decades of American economic growth,” TikTok said in a statement. “And it sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets. We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the Administration, then by the US courts.”
Earlier Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that banned having TIkTok on federal devices, the Hill reported.
TikTok has proven to be a crucial marketing and artist discovery tool in the music industry, with labels turning to the app to make viral hits for its artists and find undiscovered artists to sign. Major hits such as Lil Nas X’s record-breaking “Old Town Road,” and more recently Megan thee Stallion’s “Savage” and Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” are a few of the many songs that have first broken on TikTok before becoming Number One singles.
Last week, TikTok U.S. general manager Vanessa Pappas recently took to the app to tell users it would remain operating in the U.S. “We’ve heard your outpouring of support, and we want to say thank you. We’re not planning on going anywhere,” she said.
WeChat, the social-media and messaging app owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent, is also targeted under a second executive order expressing a similar sentiment. Tencent currently owns slices of Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group, and 9% of Spotify, in addition to being a video-game juggernaut — but the executive order appears to single out WeChat.