Trump says he’ll ban Tik Tok

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump last night declared that he would ban the social media site Tik Tok.

“As far as TikTok is concerned we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump said, calling the action a “severance.”

Trump did not specify whether he will act through an executive order, or another method. such as a designation, according to NBC News.

“Well, I have that authority. I can do it with an executive order or that,” Trump said.

Microsoft is negotiating to buy Chinese-owned Tik Tok, which would fill a social-media hole in the tech giant’s lineup of consumer offerings. But commentators think Trump is mostly just upset that the platform is an explosively-growing social media platform that will not supplicate to him as Twitter and Facebook have.

Vox recently gamed out how Trump might accomplish a “ban” on Tik Tok, but the experts consulted found it an unlikely scenario.

To really take TikTok off Americans’ phones, the government would have to do something like make Apple and Google sever their ties with ByteDance (along with any other Chinese app makers). Getting removed from the iOS App Store and Google Play Store would vastly reduce TikTok’s appeal, even if you could still access it through a sideloaded app or website. Apple, in particular, keeps tight control over iOS devices; its App Store policy is so restrictive that it’s spurred antitrust lawsuits. The government would essentially be ordering companies to deplatform TikTok — and deplatforming can be extremely powerful.

To do this, the Trump administration could repeat a tactic it used with Huawei: have the Commerce Department put TikTok on the “entity list” that limits its commercial ties to US companies. The administration doesn’t need congressional approval to do this, and it can cite any US company that does business with them (barring special exemptions) for violating sanctions. The entity list has stopped Google from working with Huawei on Android phones, and if TikTok were successfully added to the list, Apple and Google would have a hard time keeping them in the App Store.

James Lewis, director of technology policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says putting TikTok on the list would be extreme, unusual, and legally dubious.

Foreign Policy agreed.

Because the attempted “ban” by the United States is likely to rely on novel theories and will be imposed in haste, the companies are likely to have an opening to challenge the U.S. government action in court as lacking factual and legal support. A legal challenge might also put pressure on the U.S. government by forcing it to risk disclosure of sensitive intelligence on the Chinese companies if it chooses to fully defend court actions. Given the dearth of public evidence to date that TikTok provides any data to the Chinese government and the Trump administration’s less-than-stellar record against procedural challenges to its executive orders, it is possible that a well-structured challenge might be able to overturn, or at least delay, any “ban.”