It is no news about the current ban on apps now that has been going on for months now. And now The Trump administration is apparently considering a ban on Chinese social media apps, including the popular video app TikTok. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the possibility on July 7th, saying it was “something we’re looking at” in a Fox News interview with Laura Ingraham — and on July 31st, President Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he planned to personally ban the app using his own authority, instead of potentially forcing its Chinese owner to divest it.
The comments could easily have been bluster. But Pompeo also compared TikTok to Huawei and ZTE, two companies that have suffered very real consequences after drawing US government ire. With tension rising between the US and China, Trump trying to ban TikTok isn’t out of the question — and while it’s not nearly as simple as Trump, Pompeo and Ingraham make it sound, it could still cause trouble for the company and its users.
The most intense app bans happen at the network level, blocking any communication between the targeted servers and users in the country. That’s the approach taken by China’s Great Firewall, and it’s how India enforces its recently implemented TikTok ban. (Australia, which is considering a similar ban, would likely take the same approach.) But American law doesn’t have any precedent for blocking software in that way, so it seems unlikely that the White House would be able to follow through on that kind of heavy-handed network censorship.
To really take TikTok off Americans’ phones, the government would have to do something like make Apple and Google sever their ties with ByteDance (along with any other Chinese app makers). Getting removed from the iOS App Store and Google Play Store would vastly reduce TikTok’s appeal, even if you could still access it through a sideloaded app or website. Apple, in particular, keeps tight control over iOS devices; its App Store policy is so restrictive that it’s spurred antitrust lawsuits. The government would essentially be ordering companies to deplatform TikTok — and deplatforming can be extremely powerful
August 1st, 12:12 AM ET: Added that President Trump has now personally threatened to ban the app using presidential authority.