“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned from Florida.
While President Donald Trump says TikTok will be banned in the U.S. over how the Chinese-owned company uses Americans’ data, the video app says it’s “here for the long run.”
In a video shared on Twitter Saturday, TikTok U.S. General Manager Vanessa Pappas thanked the “millions of Americans who use TikTok every day bringing their creativity and joy into our daily lives.”
“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” Pappas said. “TikTok is a home for creators and artists to express themselves, their ideas and connect with people across different backgrounds and we are so proud of all the various communities that call TikTok their home.”
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Many TikTok users have been creating videos telling fans how to follow them on other social platforms including YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and short-form video app Triller. Others have been making videos about why they didn’t think it would be banned.
Trump’s threat to bar TikTok comes as the administration investigates whether the app’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, is harvesting data from Americans. TikTok’s app features short videos that has become a favorite of younger people and is known for its light-hearted feel.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned from Florida late Friday.
Trump said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to ban the Chinese-owned company from the U.S. as soon as Saturday. The U.S. Navy last year urged service members to delete the app from government devices.
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TikTok user @lauraleewatts, who has 2 million followers, doesn’t think the ban will happen and questioned Trump’s authority.
“He could probably ban TikTok from government-issued devices, which they’ve already been trying to do in Congress. So that will probably happen,” she said in her video, which as of around 3 p.m. Saturday had been viewed more than 1.2 million times and had more than 462,000 reactions and nearly 18,000 comments. “But as far as us civilians here and banning it from all of us, he’s not a dictator so it’s really not as easy as this guy just going ‘it’s banned.’”
The announcement comes weeks after Trump critics used TikTok to try to inflate expectations for turnout at the president’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump’s presidential campaign pages have been running ads on Facebook and Instagram against TikTok since then.
In a statement shared with USA TODAY Saturday, TikTok said “US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access” and the company’s “biggest investors come from the US.”
Pappas also said in her video that the company is “building the safest app because we know it’s the right thing to do.”
Meanwhile, China’s ByteDance Ltd. is reportedly prepared to sell 100% of TikTok’s U.S. operations as a way to head off the proposed ban, Bloomberg reported Saturday citing two people with knowledge of the situation.
And Microsoft may be in talks to acquire TikTok, according to several reports.
“While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok,” the company said in its statement Saturday.
The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement that “banning an app that millions of Americans use to communicate with each other is a danger to free expression and is technologically impractical.”
“With any Internet platform, we should be concerned about the risk that sensitive private data will be funneled to abusive governments, including our own,” Jennifer Granick, ACLU surveillance and cybersecurity counsel, said in the statement. “But shutting one platform down, even if it were legally possible to do so, harms freedom of speech online and does nothing to resolve the broader problem of unjustified government surveillance.”
Contributing: Dalvin, Brown, John Fritze, David Jackson, Josh Rivera and Courtney Subramanian
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
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