TikTok logo is displayed on the smartphone while standing on the U.S. flag in this illustration picture taken, November 8, 2019.
Dado Ruvic | Reuters
The app has been at the center of an escalating technology war between the U.S. and China this year. Washington had already threatened to ban TikTok in the U.S. due to national security concerns.
It is concerned the app could allow Beijing to spy on U.S. government employees and contractors, collect personal data for “blackmail,” conduct corporate espionage and be used for “disinformation campaigns” that benefit the Chinese government.
TikTok has denied such allegations and Beijing has opposed the executive orders, saying it will defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese businesses.
‘No due process’
TikTok said it was “shocked” by the order, claiming there has been “no due process or adherence to the law” from the Trump administration.
“This Executive Order risks undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law, which has served as a magnet for investment and spurred decades of American economic growth,” TikTok said in a blog post.
“And it sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets. We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly — if not by the Administration, then by the US courts.”
TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based internet giant Bytedance, wasn’t the only Chinese company targeted by the Trump administration Thursday. Another executive order centers on WeChat, the popular messaging app owned by Tencent, claiming its data collection could give Beijing access to Americans’ personal information.
The bans on TikTok and WeChat are set to take effect in 45 days.
Tencent is arguably a more significant target than ByteDance as its WeChat app is used by millions internationally and the company owns or invests in several major U.S. gaming companies including Riot Games, Epic Games and Activision Blizzard.
It’s still not clear whether the executive order could affect Tencent’s other business dealings.
“We are reviewing the executive order to get a full understanding,” the company told CNBC’s Eunice Yoon in a statement.
TikTok has become a global cultural phenomenon and is especially popular with teens and young adults, who use it to share short-form videos including everything from lip-syncing to comedy.
Despite being Chinese-owned, TikTok has a U.S. CEO and its largest office is based in Los Angeles. ByteDance operates a separate version of the app for China called Douyin.