TikTok: Trump purportedly requested parent company to sell Chinese application

Donald Trump will reportedly order the parent company of TikTok to sell the popular video sharing platform because of national-security concerns.

Trump on Friday again suggested the US may take action against the Chinese-owned social media platform.

“We’re looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok. We may be doing some other things,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House on a trip to Florida.

“There are a couple of options. But a lot of things are happening. So, we’ll see what happens,” he said.

Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the Trump administration is looking at a number of changes regarding the app, including ordering TikTok parent company ByteDance to “divest its ownership” in the US operations of the app. Several news outlets reported that Microsoft is reportedly looking into buying TikTok’s US operations.

A spokeswoman for TikTok said the company does not comment on unconfirmed “rumors” but said the company is “confident in the long-term success of TikTok”.

Microsoft did not respond to request for comment.

The reports come as TikTok’s data privacy practices have come under increased scrutiny. Some US companies have ordered employees to delete the app from company phones and the US military has banned the app internally as well.

Security experts say TikTok collects a large amount of user data. Because its parent company is based in China, some fear the platform could be compelled to share its data with the Chinese government or censor certain videos.

TikTok has vehemently denied it shares information with the Chinese government and has distanced itself from ByteDance, hiring the California-based former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as chief executive officer in May.

It is unclear what power Trump has personally to order a foreign company to sell off part of its business, but there is some precedent. In 2019, the US government forced the Chinese owners of the gay dating app Grindr to cede ownership of the app over similar concerns. But Grindr, at around 4 million active users, was much smaller and perhaps less complicated to legislate.

TikTok was the most-downloaded app in the world as of early 2020 and has overall been downloaded roughly 2bn times.