The decision to force a sale comes amid growing concern that the Chinese government could access users’ private data. TikTok has disputed the claims throughout the U.S. government’s investigation.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. began investigating an acquisition by Beijing-based ByteDance after lawmakers asked the government to step in over national security concerns. ByteDance bought karaoke app Musical.ly and merged it with TikTok, launching the app to mass popularity in the U.S.
Bloomberg first reported the news on the divestiture. TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide declined to comment, but said they are “confident in the long-term success of TikTok.”
“We may be banning TikTok,” Trump told reporters before leaving for Florida on Friday. “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.”
TikTok has continually insisted it does not hand over information to the Chinese government.
“We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked,” McQuaide said earlier this month.
TikTok has tried in recent months to convince U.S. users and regulators of its strong ties to the country. It emphasizes that it has hundreds of employees in the U.S. and even hired former Disney executive Kevin Mayer to be its new chief executive in May.
The app, which lets users create and post short videos with music and other effects, has surged in popularity even more during the coronavirus pandemic as people search for at-home activities and distractions. Teens are especially active on TikTok, creating videos showcasing their dancing, pranks, cooking skills, you name it.
When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month that the U.S. is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok, frantic TikTok users took to the app to bemoan the potential demise of the app and urge followers to find them on other social media sites.
“I really hope that this will not happen,” one user said in a video. “All the videos, all the memories of you. This can’t be true.”
Amazon even briefly prohibited employees from keeping the app on phones they use for work, though the company quickly said that directive was an error.