Oh, the irony: Trump’s executive order accuses TikTok of spreading COVID-19 misinformation

The Trump administration's plans to expand the collection of biometric data from immigrants would let the government
Credit: Gage Skidmore

President Donald Trump did it. He just signed the executive order to ban any US-based company’s transaction with TikTok and WeChat after 45 days from now.

In the order, he said that TikTok captures information from its users and it may be used by China to track the location of Federal employees:

TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including the Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories.  This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.

The order also accuses TikTok of spreading misinformation that might benefit the Chinese Communist Party, including conspiracy theories about the origin of the coronavirus. This is awkward as US-based social networks Twitter and Facebook both have pulled down Trump’s posts related to COVID-19 for relaying false information. Last month, Twitter removed a video Trump retweeted that falsely claimed that cure for coronavirus had been found. 

[Read: Microsoft reportedly wants to buy up TikTok’s India operations too]

The President also cited India’s ban on the short video app and added that the US must take “aggressive action against the owners of TikTok protect to our national security.”

During the last week, Microsoft has emerged as the top contender to buy the app from Bytedance. Now, the company will have to rush to meet the 45-day deadline, which could be a hassle. Plus, Trump has demanded that the US Treasury should get a cut for any type of deal for TikTok. This could create more complications in the structure of the transaction.

Trump’s executive order comes on the heels of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s five-part initiative of a ‘clean’ internet without China tech. We’ll have to wait and see if this order is just the start of bans for China-based tech in the US.

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