President Trump has told reporters he’s planning to ban TikTok from operating in the US. “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday night. Bloomberg reports that Trump indicated he’s ready to sign a document to order the ban as early as today, either via an executive order or emergency economic powers.
“I will sign the document tomorrow,” said Trump on Friday night, indicating that a ban could take effect “essentially immediately.”
The threat of a TikTok ban has been lingering since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the possibility on July 7th, saying it was “something we’re looking at.” TikTok is a subsidiary of Beijing-based ByteDance, and critics have called out its privacy practices and potential ties to the Chinese government. Pompeo also compared TikTok to Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese companies that have been designated as threats to US national security.
Reports on Friday suggested the Trump administration would potentially force TikTok’s Chinese owner to divest it. Such a move triggered rumors about Microsoft potentially acquiring TikTok’s US operations, a move that Trump appeared to downplay on Friday. “[It’s] not the deal that you have been hearing about, that they are going to buy and sell, and this and that. And Microsoft and another one. We’re not an M&A company,” said Trump.
It’s still not clear exactly how the Trump administration will force a TikTok ban in the US. There are variety of different methods, but a network block like China’s Great Firewall would simply be unprecedented in the US. American law doesn’t have any precedent for blocking software in such a way, so it’s unlikely that the White House will be able to immediately block TikTok with a network ban.