United States President Donald Trump has said that he will act to ban TikTok as soon as on Saturday, amidst reports of American technology giant Microsoft being in advanced talks to acquire the popular Chinese-owned video app.
Trump, talking to reporters travelling with him aboard Air Force 1 from Florida on Friday, said he could use the emergency economic powers or an executive order to ban TikTok in the United States.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we're banning them from the United States,” he said.
Referring to the emergency economic powers, the President said: “Well, I have that authority. I can do it with an executive order or that”.
Trump also made it clear that he was not in favour of a deal to let a US company buy TikTok's American operations.
Trump further told reporters that he planned to take action against the popular video-sharing app as soon as Saturday.
Earlier at the White House, Trump said: "We're looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok. We may be doing some other things. There are a couple of options. But a lot of things are happening, so we'll see what happens. But we are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok”.
India has banned as many as 106 Chinese apps, including TikTok, a move welcomed by both the Trump administration and the US lawmakers.
The Wall Street Journal on Friday reported that Microsoft, headed by Indian-American Satya Nadella, is in advanced talks to acquire the US operations of TikTok. The deal could run into billions of dollars.
"A deal could be completed by Monday, according to people familiar with the matter, and the talks involve representatives from Microsoft, ByteDance and the White House. Talks are fluid, and a deal may not come together," the report said.
China-based ByteDance is the parent company of TikTok.
In recent weeks, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused TikTok of collecting personal information of Americans.
"India has banned 106 Chinese apps, including TikTok, that threatened its citizens' privacy and security," he told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.
Media reports also said the Trump administration will soon order ByteDance to divest of its ownership of TikTok's US operations.
"In its current form, TikTok represents a potential threat to personal privacy and our national security. I applaud the Trump administration for taking this critical step, but we must do more than simply remove ByteDance from the equation," Senator Marco Rubio said.
"Moving forward, we must establish a framework of standards that must be met before a high-risk, foreign-based app is allowed to operate on American telecommunications networks and devices," Rubio said.
Meanwhile, senators Josh Hawley and Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General John C Demers calling for the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Zoom and TikTok for reported violations of Americans' civil liberties and of their close ties to the Communist Party of China.
"Based on numerous reports, we are extremely concerned that Zoom and TikTok have disclosed private information about Americans to the PRC (People's Republic of China) and engaged in censorship on behalf of the Chinese government," the senators said.
As tens of millions of Americans turn to Zoom and TikTok during the COVID-19 pandemic, few know that the privacy of their data and their freedom of expression is under threat due to the relationship of these companies to the Chinese government, they wrote.
"Of particular concern, both Zoom and TikTok have sought to conceal and distract from their meaningful ties to China, holding themselves out as American companies.
“This concealment is alarming – Chinese tech firms are notoriously bound to draconian intelligence laws, media regulations, and extrajudicial pressure that compels them to censor and spy for China's state security services," the senators added.