Is Trump Banning TikTok in America, and When Could It Happen?

There's now one question likely to be on the mind of every TikTok user as threats of a U.S. ban surges—is the app really about to be outlawed?

Short answer: it looks increasingly likely President Donald Trump will take action against the Chinese-owned short-form video app unless a deal goes through within the next 45 days. Microsoft has now confirmed it is exploring a partial acquisition.

On Friday, the president confirmed speculation that a ban on TikTok, which is currently owned by Beijing-based tech firm ByteDance, could be imminent.

From aboard Air Force One, Trump said: "As far as TikTok is concerned, we're banning them from the United States." According to NBC News, the president indicated he could sign an executive order to restrict how the app operates within days.

While the situation remains fluid, it seems that Trump has given some additional wiggle room for tech giant Microsoft to push through a purchase of TikTok.

Reuters reported Trump allowed 45 days for the negotiations to take place, with the deal being overseen by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

If that timeline is not met, the conditions indicate TikTok could be banned in the U.S. by mid-September or early October, depending on whether weekends are counted.

Microsoft confirmed in a statement on Sunday that its CEO Satya Nadella had held a conversation with the U.S. president about the potential business deal.

TikTok, which says it has approximately 100 million users inside the U.S., has repeatedly denied criticism from politicians that its Chinese ownership poses a security risk. It has previously said that it stores the user data of Americans inside the U.S.

But such assurances were not enough to calm security concerns, and calls to ban the app from U.S. politicians only grew louder following a ban in India.

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to suggest Trump's actions would not be limited to TikTok, either. He accused "Chinese software companies doing business in the United States" of sending data to the foreign government's intelligence services, although did not elaborate on which other firms are in the crosshairs.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is conducting a review of the app, said Sunday that Trump could "force a sale" or block TikTok, the Financial Times reported,

As Republican support for a takeover grew, the American Civil Liberties Union blasted the potential ban as a "danger to free expression and technologically impractical."

So what happens next?

Today, Reuters reported that ByteDance said it had started "preliminary talks with a tech company," citing a source with knowledge of an internal company letter.

Microsoft, which owns LinkedIn, confirmed yesterday that it was now exploring a deal to purchase TikTok in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Microsoft said in a blog post on Sunday that if a deal was to go ahead it would result in it "owning and operating TikTok in these markets." The company said it may also "invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in this purchase."

Officials from the technology firm said they appreciated President Trump's "personal involvement," pledging to bulk up data security procedures of the app.

"Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok's American users is transferred to and remains in the United States," a statement read. "To the extent any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred."

Discussions about the deal will last no later than September 15, 2020, it added. The firm said it will not release updates until there is a "definitive outcome" to share.

TikTok has long defended its approach to privacy and security. Its U.S. General Manager Vanessa Pappas posted a message to the platform over the weekend thanking its U.S. audience, while reading off some of the company's main PR talking points, including its ability to create U.S. jobs. "We are not planning on going anywhere," she said.

In a robust statement over the weekend, a TikTok spokesperson added: "These are the facts: 100 million Americans come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, especially during the pandemic.

"We've hired nearly 1,000 people to our US team this year alone, and are proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the U.S. Our $1 billion creator fund supports U.S. creators who are building livelihoods from our platform. TikTok US user data is stored in the U.S., with strict controls on employee access. TikTok's biggest investors come from the U.S. We are committed to protecting our users' privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform."

TikTok logo
In this photo illustration, the social media application logo, TikTok is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on March 5, 2019 in Paris, France. Chesnot/Getty