According to President Donald Trump, the popular social media app TikTok will be banned from future downloads on Sunday. The reasoning given is that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is a Chinese-owned company. The Trump Administration has expressed concern in the past that ByteDance is harvesting user data and returning it to the Chinese government.
Companies like Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and Oracle have been making bids to purchase the American rights to the app. However, it is unclear, at the time of this writing, if any company will be able to secure the cellular deals for TikTok.
Beijing has used this situation as fuel for accusations that the US is attempting to treat Chinese companies unfairly. Chinese officials have argued that the US is stifling originality and competition by attempting to “steal” TikTok from its Chinese owners.
The ban on TikTok will go live on Sunday, September 20. It will not immediately take down TikTok’s servers, but the popular social media app will be prevented from being downloaded further. This means new users won’t be able to download the app, starting Sunday. Existing users, moreover, will be unable to update the app, if they choose to continue using it.
This ban is being implemented as part of an ongoing battle against China’s growing soft powers. The country’s hard power is well-documented: military expansion and footholds in bases throughout the world have been the topic of many China observers’ concerns. However, technological soft power is a major strength of the modern Chinese government.
Zoom, an American company with deep ties to China, hosts many meetings for top companies. Huawei, a Chinese telecom company, has been heavily involved in the rollout of 5G networks.
TikTok is only the most minor of these “digital chokepoints” where China has set itself up as the gatekeeper to data exchanges.
A potential deal for a US company to purchase TikTok’s US rights has been in discussion for some time. Companies like Oracle, Wal-Mart, and even Microsoft discussed the possibility of purchasing the app in the US. However, at the time of this writing, such a deal has yet to materialize.
TikTok, for its own part, is a very popular app in the US. The app is focused on bite-sized, user-created videos. Trends and dances from TikTok become huge, and then videos centering on those trends become viral. The centralized nature of how the app shares content with users makes even a brand-new user as well-connected as a veteran user.