On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that the U.S. government is "looking at" banning TikTok and other foreign social media apps. In an interview with Fox News, Pompeo suggested that the Trump administration has been looking closely at this issue for a while now, and is seriously considering a ban. He argued that the video app could pose a national security risk.
"We are taking this very seriously. We are certainly looking at it," Pompeo said when asked if the U.S. should ban TikTok and other social media apps. "We have worked on this very issue for a long time. Whether it was the problems of having Huawei technology in your infrastructure we've gone all over the world and we're making real progress getting that out. We declared ZTE a danger to American national security."
Huawei and ZTE are both Chinese telecommunication networking companies, according to a report by CNBC. Pompeo's remarks come not only as scrutiny on TikTok in particular rises but as tensions between the U.S. and China are escalating — especially when it comes to technology. "With respect to Chinese apps on peoples' cellphones, the United States will get this one right too," Pompeo assured Fox News viewers.
Washington has repeatedly gone after Huawei over the last few years, with intelligence experts speculating that its equipment and software could be used by Beijing for espionage and that user data could be compromised. Huawei has denied all these allegations.
More recently, TikTok has been under fire for its censorship of certain content — particularly of Hong Kong protesters. Both Washington and activists around the globe have questioned the agenda of TikTok and its Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance. The U.S. government now reportedly fears that TikTok user data may be accessible to Chinese authorities.
TikTok has tried to distance itself from its Chinese parent company over the last few months, with mixed results. It hired former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its new CEO, with the express intent of rebuilding trust with regulators. So far, it has not made much headway with the Trump administration, according to Pompeo.
When asked if Americans should download TikTok, Pompeo said: "Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party." A spokesperson for TikTok refuted this claim, telling CNBC: "TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked."