By N. Elmôr
Rumours about TikTok, the popular Chinese social networking app, getting banned had been going around social media since July, but on August 6th President Donald Trump released an executive order giving ByteDance (the company who owns TikTok) 45 days to sell the app to an American company otherwise he would be banning the app in the USA. This statement unleashed a wave of public outcry from popular TikTok creators as well as app users, who were and remain confused as to why Trump made this decision. There has been a lot of criticism directed at the American Government for seemingly prioritizing banning TikTok over the pandemic, or the Black Lives Matter movement.
So how did it all start?
A USA government committee has had the app under review for over a year, but the event that is believed to have secured the app on Trump's radar was his rally at the BOK Centre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20th. Trump's campaign team were expecting the 19,000 seat-stadium to be filled and there to be an outdoor address for the overflow of public outside the stadium. Nonetheless, thanks to K-pop fans and TikTok users, the rally was 'sabotaged' and did not go as expected. TikTok users and K-pop fans mobilized to reserve tickets to the rally with no intention of actually going - and their plan worked. More than half of the stadium seats were empty, and the outdoor event was cancelled because no one showed up.
After this incident on July 7th during an interview on Fox News, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the American government was already discussing banning numerous Chinese apps, particularly TikTok (Trump confirmed this claim on the same day). Pompeo said this was because the app collected data to be used by the Chinese Communist Party, this claim was then denied by a TikTok spokesperson who said that the app has "never provided user data to the Chinese government nor would [it] do so if asked." Then, on July 31st Trump stated that he was firmly in favour of a complete ban on the app, but three days later he changed his claim and said that the app could remain in the USA as long as a U.S. company bought it.
When Trump released his executive order on August 6th, it was accompanied by his reason for doing so: according to Trump, TikTok is a security threat and carries out censorship. While TikTok does collect user data, no evidence proves that the app "threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans" personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage," as Trump said in his Executive order.
The following day, TikTok released a statement saying that they were shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process". They also explained that "for nearly a year, [TikTok has] sought to engage with the U.S. government in good faith to provide a constructive solution to the concerns that have been expressed. What we encountered instead was that the Administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses." They also ensured users that they should not worry as there are no valid and supported legal reasons for the app to be banned.
Since Trump's Executive Order, Microsoft and ByteDance have been discussing the potential sale of the app but a decision about the fate of TikTok has yet to be reached.
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