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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 19, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: TikTok is facing a potential U.S. ban

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s move to ban TikTok from U.S. app stores has been temporarily postponed following President Donald Trump’s informal approval of a deal between TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and Oracle, a California-based tech company. However, the details of the deal are being disputed.

The department said Sept. 18 that it will ban the Chinese-owned social media app starting Sept. 20, but the ban did not occur because of the deal that Trump approved Sept. 19. Through this deal, a new entity called TikTok Global will be formed. Oracle and Walmart will own a combined 20% of this new U.S.-based company, and American users’ data will be housed on Oracle’s cloud platform, according to CNN. Four of the company’s five board members will be Americans, and the fifth person is likely to be Zhang Yiming, founder of ByteDance and TikTok, as reported by CNN.

TikTok’s proposed ownership structure after the deal is still in flux. ByteDance said Sept. 21 that it would keep control of TikTok Global, according to the Washington Post. Contradictory to the deal from over the weekend, Trump said that Oracle needed to have full control or else he would not move forward with the deal, and Oracle also released a statement saying ByteDance would not be an owner.

If the ban went into effect, it would prevent people in the U.S. from downloading the app or updating it if it is already installed. The commerce department said that the restrictions have been delayed until the end of the day Sept. 27 to review the details of the deal, according to CNN.

The app has over 1.5 billion downloads worldwide. Prior to the anticipated ban, TikTok downloads rose 12% in the U.S. on Sept. 18 compared to Sept. 17, according to CNN.

With the ban, the commerce department is enacting an executive order Trump announced in August banning the app unless it was sold to a U.S. company. 

“TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories,” the executive order stated. “This data collection 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.”

TikTok sued the government to stop that ban. TikTok expressed “disappointment” over the move and said it would continue to challenge Trump’s “unjust executive order,” according to AP

Trump’s sanctions against TikTok are an attempt to counter the influence of China on American businesses. Since taking office in 2017, he has been adamant on limiting business with China. He has blocked mergers involving Chinese companies and stifled the business of Chinese firms like Huawei, a maker of phones and telecom equipment, according to AP.

John Turner can be reached at jturner3@ithaca.edu