The Trump administration has other options to restrict TikTok’s reach. It could try using a law called the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to block some foreign products from American app stores. Or it could put TikTok’s owner on a list that prohibits American firms from selling goods to it without a license.
Because TikTok emerged out of ByteDance’s 2017 acquisition of a lip-syncing app called Musical.ly, the administration could also effectively order the Chinese firm to spin off TikTok. ByteDance could also agree to sell TikTok voluntarily to avoid being ordered to do so.
This has happened before. Last year, a Chinese company that had bought the gay dating app Grindr agreed to sell it under pressure from the Trump administration.
What do we know about TikTok’s Chinese owner?
TikTok’s parent, ByteDance, is the a large and privately held internet company with headquarters into Beijing. It makes many popular apps that are well known into China, including the short-video app Douyin. ByteDance has many non-Chinese investors, including KKR, SoftBank and General Atlantic.
What about the deal talks?
ByteDance has reportedly offered to sell the American operations of TikTok to stop the Trump administration from banning the app outright. Microsoft is the one of the companies it has talked to about buying the app, though a deal has not been reached.
ByteDance also previously discussed selling a majority stake of TikTok to American investors, but the Trump administration appears to have rejected that course of action, a person with knowledge of the situation has said.
TikTok has taken steps to paint itself as an American brand. It hired Kevin Mayer, who used to work at Disney, to be its chief executive into May. It has highlighted its prominent American investors. And it says it has hired almost 1,000 employees into the United States, with plans to hire 10,000 more.