The Battle to Ban TikTok: A Timeline

In December 2017, a technology company in Beijing called Bytedance acquired Musical.ly for up to US $1 billion. From there, Bytedance merged TikTok and Musical.ly together in August 2018 while keeping the TikTok name.

According to the Evening Standard, “US officials have raised concerns that data collected by ByteDance via TikTok may end up being passed to the Chinese government.” President Donald Trump acted on these concerns and signed executive orders, stating that TikTok is a threat to US security since users’ personal information could potentially end up in the hands of the Chinese authorities.

According to the Wall Street Journal, opting into TikTok (per the privacy policy) allows TikTok to access your phone and social-network contacts, access the position of your GPS, access your personal information such as your age or phone number, and track your payment information. In addition, TikTok is able to figure out what you enjoy by tracking the videos you like, share, watch all the way through, as well as re-watch. Most other social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter collect this same information, but Chinese apps are accused of having a history of acquiring more data from users than needed to successfully run the app and is the basis of President Trump’s and other US officials’ concerns.

On September 19, President Trump approved a deal where Oracle and Walmart would partner with TikTok. In this deal, Oracle will be the cloud provider for TikTok as well as a minority investor with a 12.5% stake. Walmart has agreed to purchase 7.5% of TikTok and CEO Doug McMillon will serve as one of the five board members. ByteDance will own the remaining 80%.

President Trump has expressed interest in banning TikTok numerous times, but US officials are unsure what power Trump actually has in regards to this matter. According to NPR, on September 27, a federal judge named Carl Nichols blocked President Trump’s TikTok ban since “lawyers for TikTok argued that Trump’s clampdown infringed on free speech and due process rights.” If President Trump’s ban had gone into place, TikTok would have been removed from the app store and pre-existing users would not have been able to complete app updates any longer.

The Trump administration has worked to get TikTok banned due to the national security threat it poses, but with Judge Carl Nichols blocking the ban, it has been held back. NPR has reported that, regardless, the Trump administration is continuing the legal battle to get TikTok banned.

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