The White House has hinted at a timeframe for taking action against TikTok, the popular social video app owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance. Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration was “certainly looking at” banning the app, and now Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows says a move could come within weeks.
“There are a number of administration officials who are looking at the national security risk as it relates to TikTok, WeChat and other apps that have the potential for national security exposure, specifically as it relates to the gathering of information on American citizens by a foreign adversary,” Meadows told reporters traveling from Atlanta on Air Force One. “I dont think there’s any self-imposed deadline for action, but I think we are looking at weeks, not months.”
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TikTok denies that it is a security risk, and has taken measures to distance itself from Douyin, the Chinese version of the app. The company has appointed a new CEO, ex-Disney exec Kevin Meyer, and last week it pulled out of Hong Kong after the region adopted a new national security law giving further power to the central Chinese government.
“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US,” the company said in response to Pompeo’s comments. “We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”
Many US lawmakers remain less than convinced, however, pointing to China’s national intelligence law that compels internet companies to provide data when the government demands it.