Can Donald Trump Actually Ban TikTok?

Late last week, President Donald Trump told reporters that he intends to ban TikTok, a popular short-form video app owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, in the United States due to concerns over national security risks potentially posed by the app. While that ban has not, at the time of this article's writing, materialized, the idea has prompted a wide range of responses from users with some calling for the return of another short-form video platform, Vine, while others questioned whether Trump legally could ban TikTok -- and it turns out, he can.

Over on Lawfare, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas School of Law Robert Chesney broke down some of the big questions people have about the possible TikTok ban and explained that Trump can actually ban TikTok in the United States thanks to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). Chesney writes about the IEEPA to "think of it as a general pre-delegation of authority to impose embargoes as well as more-targeted sanctions against foreign entities—backed by criminal law sanctions—for a broadly-defined array of circumstances in which the president determines that U.S. national interests are at stake."

You can read Chesney's full detailed explanation of IEEPA and how its use could effectively ban TikTok in the United States via sanctioning ByteDance here.

So, even with it being legal for Trump to ban TikTok, how does that work with the app installed on millions of phones in the US? Chesney explained that in addition to the app no longer being available in app stores for new download or update, if the president does ban TikTok utilizing IEEPA, TikTok would no longer be able to maintain servers, property or other operations in the United States -- which is where the servers for TikTok's American users are located. And even if TikTok did continue to operate and feed content to American users from foreign locations not impacted by IEEPA -- such as China -- popular US-based creators would still likely move to other platforms, taking their audiences and many of TikTok's users with them.

As for TikTok's response to things, while it's still unclear exactly how things will unfold, the company's U.S. General Manager Vanessa Pappas told users in a video message on Saturday that the company isn't planning on going anywhere.

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“I want to say thank you to the millions of Americans who use TikTok every day. Bringing their creativity and joy into our daily lives. We’ve heard your outpouring of support and we want to say thank you, and we’re not planning on going anywhere,” Pappas explained. “TikTok is a home for creators and artists to express themselves, create ideas, and connect with individuals across different backgrounds. We are so proud of the various communities that call TikTok their home. I’m also proud of our 1,500 U.S. employees that work on this app every day. The additional 10,000 jobs that we’re bringing into this country over the next three years.”

What do you think about the potential TikTok ban? Let us know in the comments.