Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
President Donald Trump intends to sign an order that would direct ByteDance to sell its ownership of the US-based video-sharing app TikTok, according toBloomberg. The order, which could be announced as soon as Friday afternoon, would employ the Council on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to force ByteDance to divest, similar to the process undertaken against Grindr’s Chinese investors last year.
Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the Trump administration was “certainly looking at” banning TikTok in the country, stopping short of explaining exactly how it planned to do so.
“We are taking this very seriously. We are certainly looking at it,” Pompeo said at the time. “With respect to Chinese apps on peoples’ cellphones, the United States will get this one right too.”
A TikTok spokesperson responded to the Trump administration’s reported order and Microsoft speculation in a statement to The Verge:
While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok. Hundreds of millions of people come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, including our community of creators and artists who are building livelihoods from the platform. We’re motivated by their passion and creativity, and committed to protecting their privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.
Bloomberg reported that the order could be announced as early as Friday afternoon. A reporter at Fox Business confirmed the reports, mentioning Microsoft as a potential buyer. In 2017, ByteDance purchased Musical.ly, a lip-syncing app, for $1 billion and rebranded it as TikTok.
Both Congress and the Trump administration have been skeptical of TikTok and its parent company ByteDance for years. Last November, CFIUS launched a national security review of the app after politicians voiced concern over the company’s privacy practices and its alleged relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.
On Thursday, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding that the agency open an investigation into TikTok and Zoom over “reported violations of Americans’ civil liberties” and “the national security implications of both companies’ relationships with the People’s Republic of China.”
TikTok has repeatedly denied sharing any user data with the Chinese government.