Update – September 19th: Donald Trump said he has approved a deal allowing Oracle and Walmart to purchase TikTok, according to the New York Times. Pending formal approval, the Commerce Department said that it would delay a previously announced plan to bar TikTok from U.S. app stores for one week.
Beginning Sunday (Sept. 20th), the U.S. Department of Commerce will block new downloads of TikTok from U.S. app stores. TikTok will continue to work for existing users until November 12th, at which point content delivery restrictions will be placed on the app, effectively rendering it unable to operate.
TikTok is estimated to have upwards of 100 million active users in the U.S. and consistently ranks as among the most downloaded apps on Apple’s App Store. However, U.S. government officials have expressed concerns over the amount of data collected by TikTok compared to other prominent social media platforms, especially given that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company. In late 2019, the U.S. military banned its personnel from using the app on government-issued devices.
As the coronavirus pandemic has worsened tensions between the U.S. and China, there have been renewed calls by some US officials to limit the availability of Chinese apps including TikTok. One would assume that Trump himself also didn’t take kindly to TikTok users sabotaging his recent rally in Tulsa.
Trump initially issued an executive order in late July threatening to ban TikTok unless the platform was sold to a company in the U.S. Microsoft and Walmart had initially expressed interest in purchasing the app, but were informed earlier this week that their offer would not be accepted. The U.S. software company Oracle has also made an effort to purchase TikTok, but the potential deal is drawing concerns over its proposed ownership structure.
“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement announcing today’s actions against TikTok.
The future of TikTok is of particular interest to the music industry. Over the last year, the platform has emerged as fertile grounds for music discovery, with artists such as Lil Nas X, Beabadoobee, Ashnikko, and Benee owing their initial fame to TikTok virality. Given its massive, predominately younger-skewing audience, established musicians such as The Weeknd, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Lizzo, and even Prince’s estate have also sought to cultivate their own TikTok followings. All the while, major labels have zeroed in on the platform as a lucrative money-making opportunity and recently secured licensing deals.
Along with TikTok, the Trump Administration is also banning the Chinese-owned messaging service WeChat starting Sunday.