Washington, Aug 2 (efe-epa).- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that President Donald Trump could force the sale of – or block – popular Chinese video-sharing app TikTok in the US due to the risk it poses to the privacy of Americans who use it.
Although Mnuchin – in remarks on Sunday morning to ABC’s “This Week” – did not comment on Trump’s threat, issued on Friday, to sign an executive order banning the hugely popular app in the US, he did say that “the entire committee agrees that TikTok cannot stay in the current format because it risks sending back information on 100 million Americans.”
He said he has spoken to congressional leaders – including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer – about what to do about TikTok’s operations in the US, noting that “We agree there needs to be a change – force a sale or block the app. Everybody agrees it can’t exist as it does.”
Mnuchin, who heads the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, noted that the status of the Chinese app in this country is under review by the Trump administration.
He said that the president could invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), a 1977 federal law authorizing the president to regulate commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to any unusual and extraordinary threat to the US which has a foreign source.
On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft suspended talks with the Chinese firm ByteDance, which owns TikTok, to buy the app after Trump announced that he would veto such a purchase.
It is not known where the negotiations stood but, the daily reported, attributing its information to sources familiar with the issue, the suspension does not mean that the talks have been definitively ended.
TikTok’s general manager in the US, Vanessa Pappas, defended the app on Saturday, telling users that the company was taking measures and intending to provide them with “the safest app,” despite US concerns over data security.
“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” Pappas said in a message to users issued via the app.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that Trump is just days away from announcing significant steps against TikTok to protect US national security.
He said that the app, along with other Chinese software companies operating in the US, like WeChat, provide personal data on American citizens to the Chinese Communist Party, noting that the US has allowed this practice to go on for years because Americans felt “we’re having fun with it,” but adding that now “President Trump has said, ‘Enough,’ and we’re going to fix it.”
TikTok, developed by the Beijing-based ByteDance, has achieved huge success among teenage and young Americans, but significant doubts have arisen over time regarding the security of user data.
Washington and Beijing are going through one of the most critical periods since they established diplomatic relations in 1979, amid mutual accusations and decisions such as Trump’s demand that China close its consulate in Houston, to which China responded by closing the US consulate in Chengdu.