Here’s how Trump could take down TikTok in US

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U.S. investigations of TikTok gather steam.
Scope of POTUS's TikTok ban could be massive.
Photo: Kon Karampelas/Unsplash CC

The plan for implementing President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting TikTok reportedly would take a two-pronged approach that could cripple the wildly popular app in the United States.

The executive order could ban TikTok from Apple’s and Google’s app stores, effectively stopping the video-sharing app’s wildfire growth. (The app has “reportedly been downloaded over 175 million times in the United States and over one billion times globally,” according to Trump’s executive order.) The move also could financially strangle the Chinese-owned app by forbidding U.S. companies from buying advertising on it.

These details emerged in a White House document outlining the plan that was seen by Reuters.

A huge obstacle to TikTok

A source familiar with the situation verified the authenticity of the document seen by the news agency. “That kills TikTok in the U.S.,” James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert for Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Reuters. “If they want to grow, these rules are a huge obstacle.”

The report continues that:

“Following Trump’s executive order last week, TikTok told advertisers it would continue to honor planned ad campaigns, refund any that it cannot fulfill, and work with major influencers to migrate to other platforms in the event of a ban. Some advertisers told Reuters they were drafting contingency plans and considering other apps for their marketing.”

Trump’s high-profile battle with TikTok, fueled by allegations that the app acts as spyware, reportedly would end if Microsoft buys TikTok as rumored. Bringing the Chinese-owned app under the control of a U.S. company supposedly would resolve security concerns about the app.

However, TikTok already says it holds U.S. user data in the United States and Singapore. It stresses that it does not pass on information to the Chinese government.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the TikTok app “skirted a privacy safeguard in Google’s Android operating system to collect unique identifiers from millions of mobile devices.” The paper said the tactic “allows the app to track users online without allowing them to opt out.” (Apparently the iOS version is not affected.)

The rise and … rise of TikTok?

Trump threatened to ban TikTok from the United States if Beijing-based owner ByteDance doesn’t sell the app by September. The first anyone heard of this issue was in early July, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the White House was looking closely at the matter. Asked if people should download TikTok, Pompeo said, “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Despite this turmoil, TikTok remains immensely popular with users. It ruled as the No. 1 app on both iOS and the Google Play app stores last month. However, the 65.3 million July installs was a drop from previous months. Meanwhile, rival apps have grown in popularity.