TikTok's General Manager for the US, Vanessa Pappas has responded to President Donald Trump's threat to ban the app in the country, saying "we're not planning on going anywhere."

This combination of pictures created on August 01, 2020 shows the logo of Tiktok displayed on a tablet screen in Paris, and US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, July 30, 2020.
This combination of pictures created on August 01, 2020 shows the logo of Tiktok displayed on a tablet screen in Paris, and US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, July 30, 2020. (AFP)

TikTok has planned to stay in US after President Donald Trump threatened to ban the popular Chinese-owned video-sharing app from operating in the United States.

TikTok's general manager for the US, Vanessa Pappas, told users that the company was working to give them "the safest app," amid US concerns over data security.

"We're not planning on going anywhere," Pappas said in a message released on the app.

Trump has said he will take action as soon as Saturday to ban TikTok, a popular Chinese-owned video app that has been a source of national security and censorship concerns.

Trump's comments came after published reports that the administration is planning to order China’s ByteDance to sell TikTok. 

“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters on Friday on Air Force One as he returned from Florida.

Trump said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to enforce the action, insisting, “I have that authority.” He added, "It’s going to be signed tomorrow.”

Reports by Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal citing anonymous sources said the administration could soon announce a decision ordering ByteDance to divest its ownership in TikTok.

The move comes following a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) in the United States, which investigates deals affecting US national security.

ByteDance offers to sell TikTok's US ops

ByteDance has offered to sell the app's US operations as a way to avert Trump's ban, The New York Times reported on Saturday, citing an unnamed source familiar with the matter.

Earlier media reports had suggested Trump would require that the app's US operations be divested from ByteDance, but he instead announced a ban.

The proposed divestment would not necessarily affect TikTok's operations outside the United States, the Times report said.

"While we do not comment on rumours or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok," the company said when asked for comment on the Times article.

Pappas said she was "proud" of TikTok's 1,500 US employees, and also noted the "additional 10,000 jobs" the company plans on creating in the US in the next three years.

"When it comes to safety and security, we're building the safest app because we know it's the right thing to do," she said.

Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok

There have been reports of US tech giants and financial firms being interested in buying or investing in TikTok as the Trump administration sets its sights on the app. The New York Times and Fox Business, citing an unidentified source, reported on Friday that Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok. Microsoft declined to comment.

ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017, then bought Musical.ly, a video service popular with teens in the US and Europe, and combined the two. A twin service, Douyin, is available for Chinese users.

TikTok's fun, goofy videos and ease of use has made it immensely popular, and US tech giants like Facebook and Snapchat see it as a competitive threat. It has said it has tens of millions of US users and hundreds of millions globally.

But its Chinese ownership has raised concerns about the censorship of videos, including those critical of the Chinese government, and the potential for sharing user data with Chinese officials.

The firm this week pledged a high level of transparency, including allowing reviews of its algorithms, to assure users and regulators.

"We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda – our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy," TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer said in a post this week.

"TikTok has become the latest target, but we are not the enemy."

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Data privacy 

TikTok maintains it doesn’t censor videos based on topics sensitive to China and it would not give the Chinese government access to US user data even if asked. The company has hired a US CEO, a former top Disney executive, in an attempt to distance itself from its Chinese ownership.

US national-security officials have been reviewing the Musical.ly acquisition in recent months, while US armed forces have banned their employees from installing TikTok on government-issued phones. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month that the US was considering banning TikTok.

These national-security worries parallel a broader US security crackdown on Chinese companies, including telecom providers Huawei and ZTE. The Trump administration has ordered that the US stop funding equipment from those providers in US networks. It has also tried to steer allies away from Huawei because of worries about the Chinese government's access to data, which the companies have denied it has.

The Trump administration has stepped in before to block or dissolve deals on national-security concerns, including stopping Singapore's Broadcom from its $117 billion bid for US chipmaker Qualcomm in 2018 in an effort to help retain US leadership in the telecom space. It also told China's Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. to sell off its 2016 purchase of gay dating app Grindr.

Other countries are also taking action against TikTok. India in July banned dozens of Chinese apps, including TikTok, citing privacy concerns, amid tensions between the countries.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies