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Donald Trump has issued an executive order that would ban any US transactions with the parent company of TikTok, saying the US must take “aggressive action” against the app in the interest of national security.
The executive order, issued late on Thursday, would prohibit “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd”, beginning in 45 days.
BREAKING: President Trump just issued an executive order “on Addressing the Threat Posed by TikTok.” It takes effect in 45 days, prohibits “any transaction” with ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, and will almost certainly face legal challenges. pic.twitter.com/Ma9XOfYgOB
— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) August 7, 2020
The order came as the US Senate on Thursday unanimously voted to approve a bill banning federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices, amid threats from the White House to ban the company.
The video-sharing app has come under fire from US lawmakers and the Trump administration over national security concerns because ByteDance, a Chinese company, owns the technology. The company faces a deadline of 15 September either to sell its US operations to Microsoft or another US firm or face an outright ban.
Sources previously told Reuters that ByteDance executives valued all of TikTok at more than $50bn.
Under a Chinese law introduced in 2017, companies have an obligation to support and cooperate with the country’s national intelligence work.
“I’m encouraged by the bipartisan support we have seen in this body to hold the Chinese Communist party accountable and that includes … holding accountable those corporations who would just do China’s bidding,” Senator Josh Hawley, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement.
“And, if I have anything to say about it, we won’t be stopping here,” the Republican senator added.
Last month, the House of Representatives voted to bar federal employees from downloading the app on government-issued devices as part of a proposal offered by the Republican Ken Buck.
A finalized version of the bill, combining the House and Senate versions, would need Donald Trump’s approval to become law.
When asked if the president favored the legislation, a White House official said: “We support Congress’ intent to protect government-issued devices against the privacy and security risks inherent in certain third-party applications.”
A TikTok spokeswoman said its growing US team had no higher priority than promoting a safe app experience that protected users’ privacy.
On Wednesday, TikTok said it was working with experts from the US Department of Homeland Security to “protect against foreign influence” and fact-check potential misinformation about the election.
The company has increasingly emerged as a platform for political discourse and activism. Users recently said they helped inflate attendance expectations at Trump’s June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Last year, the company said about 60% of its 26.5 million monthly active US users were aged 16 to 24.