Trump Accuses TikTok of Spreading Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories after Claiming Virus Came from Wuhan Lab

President Donald Trump's executive order formalizing his threats against TikTok in the U.S. warned the app has been used to spread "debunked conspiracy theories" about COVID-19, despite his own long history in spreading mistruths about the virus.

The executive order says TikTok collects huge amounts of data on users that can be provided to the Chinese Communist Party. It says this poses a threat to the U.S., potentially the country to "conduct corporate espionage."

"[TikTok] may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit [China], such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the... novel coronavirus," the order says.

Misinformation about the novel coronavirus swept across social media in recent months as COVID-19 spread worldwide, with Facebook singled out as being one major source. But there was another, and it was sitting inside the White House.

In May, Trump claimed to have seen evidence the infectious disease could be traced to a lab in Wuhan, the Chinese city that first recorded an outbreak of the virus.

"Whether they [China] made a mistake or whether it started off as a mistake, and then they made another one or—did somebody do something on purpose?" he questioned in a White House briefing at the time, seemingly flirting with the conspiracy in circulation at the time suggesting the disease could have been a type of bioweapon.

Trump was also asked about the source of the virus during a press conference the same month, questioned: "Have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this virus?"

He replied: "Yes, I have. Yes, I have. And I think the World Health Organization should be ashamed of themselves because they're like the public relations agency for China."

Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state, once said there was "enormous evidence" to say COVID-19 was tied to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The U.S. intelligence community later concluded the virus was "not man-made or genetically modified."

Trump, with his fingers on social media, regularly shares false information, including a claim this week that children are "almost immune" to the COVID-19 virus, a post that forced Facebook to act after months of reluctance to sanction the president.

Last week Trump retweeted a video containing lies about hydroxychloroquine treatment, a clip showing people claiming "you don't need masks" and there was already a "cure," despite advice from global health officials saying exactly the opposite.

The president has repeatedly said COVID-19 will disappear on its own and previously promoted the debunked idea it was similar to the common flu, or cold.

He shocked the scientific community in April by appearing to suggest that disinfectants could potentially be used to treat the novel coronavirus in patients. "I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning," he said.

"Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you're going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds—it sounds interesting to me."

Microsoft is currently exploring an acquisition of the TikTok app from Chinese company ByteDance, with Trump giving it 45 days to complete a business deal. He has suggested the U.S. Treasury should be given a cut of money if the purchase goes ahead.

The U.S. has warned TikTok's Chinese ownership poses a national security concern, although restrictions come as the president is engaged in a trade conflict with Beijing.

"TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from users including internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories," the executive order reads, banning U.S. transactions with the firm.

"This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans' personal and proprietary information—potentially allowing China to ... build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.

"TikTok also reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive, such as content concerning protests in Hong Kong and China's treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. [TikTok] may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit [China], such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the... novel coronavirus."

The White House has been contacted for comment.

TikTok has repeatedly denied that it shares data with the Chinese government, saying that U.S. user data is actually stored in the states, with a backup in Singapore.

In its response to the executive order, TikTok said: "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 U.S. courts."

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump departs the White House for a trip to Ohio where he will visit a Whirlpool factory on August 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. After the visit to the factory he will attend a fundraising reception and then head to his properties in New Jersey for the weekend. Samuel Corum/Getty
Trump Accuses TikTok of Spreading Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories after Claiming Virus Came from Wuhan Lab | Tech & Science