🤔 Donald Trump might actually have the legal power to ban TikTok

TikTok has been one of the hottest social media companies in the world. While Twitter and Facebook get dragged by Congress and the general public seemingly every day, TikTok had 315 million downloads in Q1 this year, the most for any app ever.

But now Donald Trump wants to ban TikTok in the U.S. if an American company doesn’t swoop in to purchase it. Uh, is that allowed?

  • TikTok is owned by the Chinese company Byte Dance: Despite having an American CEO and a sizable American staff, White House officials have feared the Chinese government would use TikTok for retaining American data and for facial recognition.  

  • Trump is not the only one wary of the app: Kara Swisher, one of the most respected media figures in tech, said last month she wouldn’t download the app out of concern the Chinese government would use it for security and surveillance. Major corporations, like Wells Fargo, have banned employees from having TikTok on company phones.   

The American version of the Great Firewall of China? 

China and many other countries block specific apps by forcing Internet Service Providers to bar the sharing of their content on their servers. India has already done exactly that for its TikTok ban. But the United States has no precedent for taking similar action. 

  • To ban TikTok, then, the U.S. would likely follow a strategy it used with the 5G company Huawei, according to The Verge. This would entail the Commerce Department adding TikTok to what is essentially a blacklist crafted at the discretion of the White House. Companies who want to interact with the companies on that list, called the “entity list,” can be sanctioned by the U.S. government. So if TikTok was on the list Google and Apple would think twice before putting the app in its stores.

The Verdict

Companies typically get added to the “entity list” under extreme circumstances. As James Lewis, director of technology policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Verge, the addition of TikTok would be legally questionable at this point. “You can’t just do it because you’re mad at a company.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s deadline for the sale is Sept. 15.