President Trump says he will not be extending the 20 September deadline for TikTok’s parent company ByteDance to sell the popular video-sharing app.
The sale has been forced by an executive order prohibiting US companies from engaging in any transactions with ByteDance as the US administration applies pressure on what it described as “untrusted” Chinese apps.
Speaking to reporters, the president said “we’ll see what happens, it’ll either be closed up or they’ll sell it,” as he confirmed there would not be any extension on the deadline his executive order imposed.
The wording of the executive order does not make clear exactly what kind of prohibition would be applied to TikTok if it remains in Chinese ownership, but it could be that US-based Google and Apple will be banned from hosting the app on their stores.
The allegations against the app include that it “automatically captures vast swathes of information from its users, including internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories”.
Such data collection is standard for most social media apps, but the executive order warns: “This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”
Despite the executive order claiming that the US had “credible evidence” that TikTok was being used to undermine US security, the company denied sharing data with the Chinese state.
ByteDance has stressed that its data on US users is stored in America, which is also where its biggest investors are located, and is currently suing the US administration to prevent the forced sale.
A number of American companies have been linked with a purchase of the US-based operations of the app, with Microsoft suggested to be interested in acquiring the company’s global business.
In August, the president said he would support the sale of TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft as long as the US government got a “substantial proportion” of the sale price.
“I did say that if you buy it, whatever the price is that goes to whoever owns it, because I guess it’s China essentially … I said a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen,” he said.
ByteDance is reportedly opposed to selling its assets outside of those in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, according to the Financial Times.
Other companies suggested to have an interest in the app include Twitter, and Oracle – an enterprise data management company whose chief executive Larry Ellison has been a prominent Silicon Valley supporter of the president.
Experts who have analysed the app suggest its threat to US security was principally theoretical, and say there is no evidence that “personal and proprietary information” has been acquired by the Chinese state.