Word on the street (and by that I mean…my harrowing news feed) is that TikTok is getting banned in the United Sates, which means your roommate could stop practicing dance routines in front of the mirror soon.
Talk around the TikTok ban is equal parts highly political and highly confusing (What! Will! Happen! To! The! Hype House!), so we’re breaking it down for you here. But not before forcing everyone to watch Bachelor Peter Weber’s interpretive dance to Roddy Ricch:
Trump Considered a TikTok Ban to “Punish” China
Which, WTF. “It’s something we’re looking at, yes,” Trump said back in July. “It’s a big business. Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful.”
“We’re gonna keep looking at TikTok; we’re thinking about making a decision because there’s no question what the Big Tech companies are doing is very bad,” he later said, confirming everyone’s worst fears.
Donald Trump confirms the government is considering banning TikTok due to national security concerns:
“We’re looking at TikTok, we’re thinking about making a decision.”
In other words, Trump is blaming China for COVID-19 and his falling approval rating and wants to retaliate by banning a Chinese business. It isn’t just talk either—he issued an executive order on August 6 “that will effectively ban TikTok unless it is sold to an American buyer,” so there you go.
TikTok execs are pretty pissed about this, and they even filed a lawsuit challenging Trump’s executive order, so I guess we should add “TikTok vs. Trump takedown” to the list of weird stuff going down in 2020.
And yeah, people have feelings—especially given that TikTok users just trolled Trump at his campaign event:
The President of the United States is going to ban TikTok because some teenagers ruined his pep rally.
TikTok is getting banned just after teens used it to troll the President, and I have really serious doubts that it’s just a coincidence.
There’s no denying that everyone’s favorite lockdown app is extremely politicized and caught up in what’s essentially a tech war between China and the United States. As Forbes writer Zak Doffman puts it, “Yes, there are security concerns behind the scenes, but commercial, economic, and political concerns trump those.” Emphasis on “trump,” ahem.
Truly ugh, but aside from Trump’s personal political agenda, let’s talk those data security issues….
There Are Concerns Over TikTok’s Data-Collecting Policies
According to Bloomberg and the New York Times, there’s valid concern the app is collecting information from children under the age of 13 without parental permission—which would be in violation of U.S. privacy laws. On top of that, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo recently claimed officials were considering banning the app to protect Americans’ private data.
*Camera awkwardly cuts to Facebook all…
Pompeo also straight-up said that Americans shouldn’t download the app if they don’t want their private info to fall “in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
So, is TikTok collecting data? Not according to the company, whose spokesperson said, “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government nor would we do so if asked.”
FYI, India Has Already Banned TikTok
This is a huge deal, not only because it sets the stage for other countries to potentially follow suit but also because—according to The Verge—30 percent of TikTok downloads came from India in April alone. The country justified the ban by claiming TikTok “engaged in activities…prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India,” but the BBC reports that there’s more to the story, claiming that just two weeks before India’s TikTok ban, a skirmish broke out on India’s border with China, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
Oh, and TikTok’s CEO Resigned
A few short months after Kevin Mayer took control of TikTok as the CEO, Mayer sent a memo to staff revealing his intent to resign, citing the political environment. He wrote:
There Was Initially a September Purchase Deadline for TikTok
As if this whole thing couldn’t get messier, Trump made a PSA basically telling China that it had until September 20 to find someone to purchase TikTok or else he’d shut down the app’s operations in the United States.
Trump says China has until September 15 to come to a deal on TikTok, and reiterates that the U.S. must be “well-compensated” in any agreement pic.twitter.com/fnfqIz6W9Y
Walmart, Microsoft, and Oracle were rumored to be thinking about making the purchase (which is reportedly between $15 billion and $50 billion). Trump said the U.S. “has to be compensated, well compensated.” On September 13, CNN reported that Oracle ultimately finalized a deal with TikTok as the app’s U.S. operations partner, but “the exact nature of the agreement” between the two companies “remains unclear,” as it wasn’t “an outright sale.”
According to The Verge, while this deal was meant to assuage Trump and relieve security concerns, having Oracle as TikTok’s “trusted tech partner” ultimately “accomplishes nothing.” Because the deal doesn’t seem to be a sale or legitimate severing of ties with TikTok’s operations in Europe or Asia—as Microsoft’s proposed deal intended—security concerns remain. As the outlet put it, “If you were concerned about TikTok before, there’s no obvious reason you should be less concerned now.”
TikTok Might Be Pulled From App Stores Pretty Soon
Yeah, that deal that was supposed to happen to save TikTok from getting the boot? Hasn’t happened.
Shortly before the September 20 download ban could happen, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols blocked the ban, which allows TikTok’s owner to keep the app available in American app stores. As of now, the judge declined to block another set of restrictions that would make it impossible for American companies to provide services to TikTok, effectively rendering the app useless in the U.S.
The purchasing deadline was extended to November 12. “Basic TikTok will stay intact until November 12,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business News. “If there is not a deal by November 12 under the provisions of the old order, then TikTok also will be, for all practical purposes, shut down.”
Spoiler alert: It’s November 12, and there’s still no deal. TikTok says they haven’t heard from Trump in weeks, and now they’re asking for U.S. federal intervention before they go dark.
Here’s what TikTok had to say about it in a statement:
This case is ever-evolving, so get your content in while you can!
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