To protect US national security, President Donald Trump will be announcing robust action against the popular Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok within days, a top official said Sunday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said TikTok and other Chinese software companies operating in the US, such as WeChat, feed personal data on American citizens directly to the Chinese Communist Party, AFP reported.
For years the US has put up with this because Americans felt “we’re having fun with it,” Pompeo said.
One American who appears to be “having fun with it” is Sarah Cooper, who now has more than half a million TikTok followers thanks to the president.
The actress and comedian shot to Internet fame by posting videos of her lipsyncing Trump’s speeches and interviews to hilarious effect, whether it’s him denying he retreated to the White House bunker because of a threat posed by protestors, dodging a question about what his favorite Bible phrases are, or, most memorably, recreating his now-famous “People, woman, man, camera, TV” interview, reported Vogue in an article headlined “Is Sarah Cooper the Reason Donald Trump Wants to Ban TikTok?“.
‘We’re going to fix it’
It is unclear whether Trump’s aggressive stance on TikTok really has anything to do with his ego being bruised by Cooper’s videos, but Pompeo assured on Fox News on Sunday that the controversial app would soon be out of commission in the United States.
“President Trump has said, ‘Enough,’ and we’re going to fix it,” Pompeo said.
“And so he will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party,” he added.
Pompeo said the data that companies like TikTok are gathering about Americans “could be their facial recognition pattern; it could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends, who they’re connected to.”
Earlier, in another ominous US warning to the Chinese-owned app, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said TikTok should be sold or blocked in the US, AFP reported.
TikTok, Mnuchin said, simply “cannot exist as it does.”
Mnuchin did not comment directly on Trump’s threat Friday to bar the wildly popular video-sharing app.
The secretary recalled that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – which he chairs – is reviewing TikTok, which is especially popular with young audiences who create and watch its short-form videos and has an estimated one billion users worldwide.
But in one of many fronts in the increasingly poisonous US-Chinese relationship, US officials have said it could be a tool for Chinese intelligence. TikTok denies any such suggestion.
“I will say publicly that the entire committee agrees that TikTok cannot stay in the current format because it risks sending back information on 100 million Americans,” Mnuchin said Sunday on ABC.
Mnuchin said he has spoken to leaders of Congress including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, about what to do with TikTok’s operations in the US.
“We agree there needs to be a change – force a sale or block the app. Everybody agrees it can’t exist as it does,” Mnuchin said.
A Wall Street Journal report on Saturday said the negotiations for Microsoft to purchase the American operations of TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance, were put on hold after Trump threatened to ban the app.
TikTok’s general manager for the US, Vanessa Pappas, defended the company on Saturday, assuring users that the company was working to give them “the safest app,” amid Washington’s data security concerns.
“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” Pappas said in a message conveyed on the app.
– With reporting by AFP