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U.S. Eyes TikTok Ban, But Can It Legally Do It?

[UPDATED] The U.S. is “very seriously” considering joining India in banning TikTok, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too,” Pompeo said in an interview. “I don’t want to get out in front of the President, but it’s something we’re looking at.”

TikTok, owned by China-based tech giant ByteDance – is one of 59 apps banned in India to “ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.” The ban followed increased military tensions between the two countries.

TikTok has come under increased scrutiny over the data it collects on users including IP addresses and location information.

TikTok says that it stores American data in the U.S. with backups in Singapore. But critics point out that as a Chinese-owned company, TikTok is still subject to Chinese law.


Would A TikTok Ban Be Legal?

While the administration may want to band TikTok, can it do so without running afoul of U.S. freedom of speech laws.

“There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about TikTok, it’s connections to China, and the security of the app,” writes TechDirt’s Mike Masnick. “But none of that means that the US government has the right to just ban it. While Trump may want to pretend he’s a dictator, and Pompeo may want to pretend he works for a dictator, that’s not how any of this works.”

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