President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will ban TikTok from operating in the US Trump’s 2019 financial disclosure reveals revenue at Mar-a-Lago, other major clubs Treasury to conduct policy review of tax-exempt status for universities after Trump tweets MORE’s announcement that he plans to ban the video-sharing platform TikTok from operating in the United States unleashed a wave of criticism from its users, including from those who accused the president of squandering freedoms of speech and expression.
Trump revealed on Friday that he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order as early as Saturday to officially ban the Chinese-owned company from the U.S., citing national security concerns. The announcement came hours after reports that Microsoft was in talks to purchase TikTok from the Beijing-based company ByteDance.
The wildly popular app has hundreds of millions of users worldwide and became a household name in 2020 as Americans faced coronavirus lockdowns and use of the app increased.
It was downloaded 315 million times in the first three months of this year, more quarterly downloads than any other app in history, according to analytics company Sensor Tower.
TikTok said the app, which allows users to watch and create short videos featuring audio and other effects, offered “entertainment and connection” during the isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic.
“If TikTok did shut down, it would be like losing a bunch of really close friends I made, losing all the progress and work I did to get a big following,” user Ashleigh Hunniford, 17, told The New York Times last week. “It’s a big part of who I’ve become as a teenager. Losing it would be like losing a little bit of me.”
The American Civil Liberties Union on Saturday denounced Trump’s move and said blocking the app, which millions of Americans use to communicate with one another, would be “a danger to free expression and technologically impractical.”
Banning an app like TikTok, which millions of Americans use to communicate with each other, is a danger to free expression and technologically impractical. https://t.co/ZbN7f2TOwF
— ACLU (@ACLU) August 1, 2020
Some of the platform’s largest stars condemned the president’s decision and lashed out on other social media platforms.
“I hate donald trump,” wrote user Baby Ariel, a 19-year-old singer who had more than 34.5 million followers on TikTok.
Larri Merritt, a YouTube star who ended up amassing more than 10 million followers on his TikTok account, wrote that he finds it interesting that Trump is “more worried about banning tiktok than he is about black lives.”
i find it interesting how trump is more worried about banning tiktok than he is about black lives
— larri (@larrayxo) August 1, 2020
Addison Rae, a viral dance star with more than 53.4 million followers on TikTok, simply wrote, “Bitter.”
Creators also took to the app after the president’s announcement to say goodbye, mourning the possibility they might be stripped of their creative outlet.
by far the best TikTok departure vid I’ve seen so far from hope schwing to her 8M followers : pic.twitter.com/P7bsV7zPRq
— Alice Ophelia (@iamaliceophelia) August 1, 2020
#tiktokban This is what makes me most sad. I love seeing how young people have used #TikTok to be activists, create community, express themselves, be ridiculous, whatever, they’re making f’ing ART. @TaylorLorenz https://t.co/QaBL53wXxb
— Kim Foster (@KimFosterNYC) August 1, 2020
can’t stop thinking about how devastating this would be for so many young creators who have found their voice on the platform. if twitter was ripped away from me at 18 idk what i would’ve done https://t.co/F2pZnl5DPP
— matt (@dogfather) August 1, 2020
One user floated the idea that Trump wants to ban TikTok to spite Sarah Cooper, an actress and comedian who rose to fame mocking Trump by lip syncing his speeches and interview clips.
“Trump can try & ban TikTok but one thing he can’t undo is the fact that the platform helped fuel the fame & success of one particular comedian, Sarah Cooper, whose work consistently exposes the absurdity & stupidity of so much of what Trump says & does!” one twitter user wrote.
Cooper responded to Trump’s news with a clip reenacting the president’s previous comments about banning the app. That video immediately went viral and garnered more than 3.6 million views.
How to tick tack pic.twitter.com/1Mn8nk363f
— Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) July 31, 2020
Following Trump’s announcement, critics and users began speculating about whether the president has the authority to ban a private company. The U.S. does not have a nationwide, network-level ability to block websites or apps like the Chinese government has blocked Twitter.
Variety noted that the administration may attempt to threaten Apple and Google with punishment if they continue to allow TikTok to be carried in app stores.
The White House could move to add it to the Commerce Department’s list of foreign entities that “present a greater risk of diversion to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, terrorism, or other activities contrary to U.S. national security and/or foreign policy interests.”