President Donald Trump has announced he is banning the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok in the US.
He told reporters he could sign an executive order as early as Saturday.
US security officials have expressed concern that the app, owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, could be used to collect the personal data of Americans.
The fast-growing app has up to 80 million active monthly users in America and the ban would be a major blow for ByteDance.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Mr Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One.
TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide declined to comment on the move but said the company was “confident in the long-term success of TikTok”, the Washington Post reports.
Earlier in the month Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was if he would ban Chinese apps – including TikTok – he said: “I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we’re looking at”.
That is a very worrying statement for TikTok.
The huge Chinese social media company has experienced phenomenal growth in the last three years. It’s been downloaded more than two billion times.
But around the world, and not just in the US, TikTok is facing a backlash.
It’s finding out the hard way that being international, a tech company, and Chinese isn’t a great combination right now.
By far its largest market, India, banned TikTok last week, along with 58 other Chinese apps.
Officially security concerns were given as the reason, but that isn’t the whole story.
Two weeks before, a border skirmish on India’s northern frontier with China left 20 Indian soldiers dead. It’s not known how many Chinese troops were killed.
The fighting was said to be gruesome, hand-to-hand combat.
Thousands of miles away, Pompeo said he welcomed India’s move to ban the apps. They “serve as appendages of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state”, he said.
It was a pretty extraordinary statement that flew relatively under the radar. The US government had congratulated the banning of TikTok in another country.
“Good to see India ban 59 popular apps owned by Chinese firm,” tweeted Nikki Haley, the former US ambassador to the United Nations.
Much of this can be linked to Huawei, says James Sullivan, head of cyber research at British security think-tank Rusi.
“Huawei is the test case,” he says. “It’s probably the start of a trend in the West where sanctions will seek to squeeze, or even sink, large Chinese tech companies”
Distance from China
That has made TikTok extremely nervous and explains its energetic and painstaking attempts to distance itself from China.
Monday saw the company announce it would quit Hong Kong “within days” after a new National Security Law was brought in.
The announcement came after Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp said they would not hand over data to the Hong Kong government.
This was more than a statement from TikTok though – it was a grand gesture. A clear neon-lit sign that says: “TikTok is not close to the Chinese government.”
It’s a strategy the company has been following for quite some time.
Earlier this year it hired an American chief executive, Kevin Mayer.
TikTok is also keen to play up the localised nature of the platform, highlighting its big offices in places like London and Los Angeles.
‘We would not comply’
TikTok also says it would never share data with China.
On Friday, Mr Mayer wrote a letter to the Indian government.
“I can confirm that the Chinese government has never made a request to us for the TikTok data of Indian users,” he said.
“If we do ever receive such a request in the future, we would not comply.”
But it hasn’t won over the doubters.