The Trump administration’s looming TikTok ban may be just the beginning.
The US government is scrutinizing a number of other apps owned by China-based companies to see if they pose a national security threat, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Thursday.
Meadows did not specify what apps the administration might target, but his comments arrived as mega-popular social media app TikTok faces a sale to an American company to avoid being banned in the US.
President Trump has said he would ban the app in the US in mid-November unless it’s sold to a US company amid concerns that the China-based company shares users’ information with Communist Party officials.
TikTok’s sale, likely to a tag team of Microsoft and Walmart or Silicon Valley cloud giant Oracle, is on hold as parties try to figure out if the app’s secret-sauce algorithm will be included in the deal.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce last week added 23 items to a list of technologies that require Beijing’s approval before they can be exported, in an apparent bid to gain leverage. That list reportedly includes artificial intelligence technology that plays a key role in serving users personalized videos on their TikTok feeds.
Trump in August also signed an executive order banning transactions involving popular Chinese messaging platform WeChat, which is owned by Tencent, saying that it “may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party.”
The video game industry is holding its breath to see how the Tencent news plays out, as the Chinese juggernaut owns stakes in “Fortnite” maker Epic Games as well as “World of Warcraft” developer Activision Blizzard.
Tencent also has owns sizable chunks of companies like Tesla and Snap, and has many apps in Apple and Google’s app stores.
In comments on Fox News earlier this week, White House trade advisor Peter Navarro said it was “critical” that Americans not use Chinese apps.
“That data will be used to surveil, monitor and track you,” Navarro said. “That’s the policy position underlying why we have gone after TikTok and WeChat, and there will be others because China is basically going out around the world trying to acquire technology and influence.”
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