The White House has hinted that action has been taken against TikTok, the popular social video app from Chinese internet company ByteDance. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that the Trump administration was “definitely checking out the app,” and now Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, says a move could come in a few weeks.
“There are a number of government officials who are looking at the national security risk when it comes to TikTok, WeChat, and other apps that may potentially be exposed to national security, especially as it involves the gathering of information about US citizens by a foreign opponent,” Meadows told reporters traveling with Atlanta from Air Force One. “I don’t think there’s a self-imposed deadline for action, but I think we’re looking at weeks, not months.”
TikTok denies that it is a security risk and has taken measures to distance itself from Douyin, the Chinese version of the app. The company has appointed a new CEO, ex-Disney director Kevin Meyer, and withdrew from Hong Kong last week after the region passed a new national security law that gave the central Chinese government more power.
“TikTok is headed by a US CEO, with hundreds of employees and key people working in safety, security, products and public policy here in the US,” the company said in response to Pompeo’s comments. “We don’t have a higher priority than promoting a safe app experience for our users. We never provided user information to the Chinese government, and we wouldn’t if asked to do so.”
However, many US lawmakers remain less than convinced, citing the national law on intelligence agencies in China that compels internet companies to provide data when requested by the government.