TikTok logoSource: TikTok

What you need to know

  • A White House document has reportedly cast more light on an executive order targeting TikTok.
  • It says it could ban the app from app stores and make advertising on the platform illegal.
  • One expert says it could kill TikTok in the U.S.

A new White House document has reportedly revealed further details about the possible ramifications of a recent executive order targeting TikTok.

As Reuters reports:

President Donald Trump's executive order banning China's TikTok could prevent U.S. app stores from offering the popular short-video app and make advertising on the platform illegal, according to a White House document seen by Reuters

As the report notes, President Trump's executive order targeting the video platform was fairly ambiguous in nature, and "did not specify the scope of the ban". The U.S. Department of Commerce plans to define what exactly a "transaction" soon, however, this document provides some key insight. The report continues:

It shows the U.S. government is considering disrupting key aspects of TikTok's operations and funding, amid concerns over the safety of personal data that the app handles.

"Prohibited transactions may include, for example, agreements to make the TikTok app available on app stores ... purchasing advertising on TikTok, and accepting terms of service to download the TikTok app onto a user device," the document states.

Whilst the first two measures are fairly obvious, the last one is more interesting. If individual users were banned from signing terms of service when downloading TikTok onto their phone, that could make it illegal to even sideload the app onto an Android device from a source other than the Google Play Store. Cybersecurity expert James Lewis told Reuters the measures would kill TikTok in the U.S., but that the U.S. government may not be able to prevent U.S. citizens from downloading the app from foreign websites. The report doesn't seem to provide any further clarity on whether it could affect Tiktok beyond U.S. shores, for example in Apple's App Stores around the world.

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Of course, the only way to install an app on iPhone is through the App Store, so this is much more of a problem on iOS than it is Android.

The report notes the document is not clear about the impact of a similar order targeting WeChat but notes that if TikTok can successfully negotiate a deal with Microsoft, the order might not be necessary anyway.

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