Trump raises concerns about US ban on TikTok

By Thomson Reuters Mar 8, 2024 | 10:08 AM

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Presidential candidate Donald Trump raised concerns about banning TikTok ahead of a vote next week by the U.S. House of Representatives that would give TikTok owner ByteDance about six months to divest the popular short video app.

The former Republican president seeking a return to the White House wrote late Thursday on social media site Truth Social “if you get rid of TikTok, Facebook… will double their business,” and added he does not want Facebook “doing better.”

The campaign did not immediately comment on whether Trump has a position on the legislation. Facebook parent Meta declined to comment.

The Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday approved legislation on a 50-0 vote to crackdown on TikTok, which has about 170 million U.S. users.

The bill would give ByteDance 165 days to divest TikTok; if it did not, app stores operated by Apple, Google and others could not legally offer TikTok or provide web hosting services to ByteDance-controlled applications.

In 2020, Trump sought to ban TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat but was blocked by the courts.

Trump said in an August 2020 executive order that TikTok data collection “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

TikTok, which says it has not and would not share U.S. user data with the Chinese government, argues the House bill amounts to a ban and it is not clear if China would approve any sale, or that it could be divested in six months.

“This legislation has a predetermined outcome: a total ban of TikTok in the United States,” the company said after the vote. “The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression.”

The app is popular and getting legislation approved by both the House and Senate in an election year may be difficult. Last month, Democratic President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign joined TikTok.

Trump’s campaign has not joined TikTok.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Nick Zieminski)