President Donald Trump has said his administration is considering banning the short video app TikTok in the United States as a possible way to respond to China due to its handling of the coronavirus. Trump's comments came Tuesday, a day after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said authorities were seeking at Tiktok ban, whose parent company is ByteDance Ltd.
"It is something we are looking at, yes, it is a great business. Look, what happened to China with this virus and what they did to this country and the whole world is shameful," Trump said when asked in an interview with Gray Television’s Greta Van Susteren about Pompeo’s remarks.
Trump has not provided any details about a possible decision. He said the TikTok ban is "one of many" ways it seeks to respond to the Beijing government due to the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 3 million people in the United States and killed more than 130,000.
In separate but consistent development, the short video app is being investigated by the US Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department about its data practices, according to children's privacy advocates who said it was interviewed by agencies. Several privacy groups claimed in May that the app, which is popular with teens, was collecting information about children under the age of 13 without parental permission, in violation of both the US Privacy Act and the previous agreement from the FTC.
The president has seen a drop in opinion polls, as his own response to the pandemic has been widely criticized, including his refusal to unequivocally urge Americans to wear masks.
TikTok strengthened its ties to the United States and said it was not supplying user data to China, prompting comments from Pompeo, who said the government was studying in part due to concerns about its ownership, to be rejected.
"TikTok played up its U.S. ties, with hundreds of key employees and leaders in the areas of security, products and public policy here in the United States. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor will we do so if requested." said a company spokesman.
TikTok hired former Walt Disney Co. executive Kevin Mayer as chief executive officer last month. He is also COO of ByteDance.
Drawing attention to India's recent move to ban almost 60 Chinese apps, including TikTok, Fox News presenter Laura Ingraham Pompeo asked if the Trump administration would also consider banning the app in the United States, "our response to that, "replied Pompeo.
He then recommended that Americans not download the app unless they want to see their private information fall "into the hands of the Communist Party of China."
Pompeo joins other U.S. government officials, including Senator Marco Rubio and Chuck Schumer, who have called for TikTok investigations into possible threats to national security. The United States government has also released a national security review for the acquisition of Musical.ly by ByteDance, a startup that later merged with TikTok.
Tiktok cited organized youths as one of the reasons many people joined Trump's first campaign after closing last month in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but have yet to appear. The Trump campaign denied online regulatory efforts that contributed to lower-than-expected attendance.
In the US, TikTok has been downloaded more than 165 million times, according to SensorTower estimates. TikTok has denied the allegations that it represents a threat to the national security of the United States.
In a public offering to support the protection of user data from the Chinese government, TikTok said on Monday that it will suspend operations in Hong Kong due to the National Security Law that requires social media applications to deliver user data to Beijing. TikTok is running a separate version of its application in China called Douyin.
Privacy advocate Josh Gulin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission asked the allegations made by his group and others to the Trade Commission.
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