It was reported on the 31st July 2020 that Donald Trump wants to ban TikTok in the USA.

President Trump on Friday said he plans to ban the social media platform TikTok from operating in the United States.

“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One.

The president said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order as early as Saturday to officially bar the Chinese-owned company from the U.S. He signaled he was not supportive of allowing an American company to acquire TikTok.


The reasoning behind this action are accusations that the owners of TikTok, ByteDance, are passing sensitive information collected from users onto the Chinese government.

That report emerged around the same time news outlets reported that Trump was considering signing an executive order requiring ByteDance to divest the U.S. portion of TikTok due to concerns that the company may be giving sensitive U.S. data collected through the app to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).


Specifically which "economic emergency powers" give him the power to do this by presidential order?

  • 1
    A related question (but perhaps more suited to a technical site) is whether he actually could stop people from using the application, or whether it'd be as effective as banning drugs has been.
    – jamesqf
    Aug 1, 2020 at 16:35
  • 2
    @jamesqf Banning drugs has been very effective in its actual goal of providing an efficient supply pipeline to the for-profit prison industry. Aug 2, 2020 at 9:24

1 Answer 1


It's not clear that he has such powers.

The "emergency economic powers" derives from the IEEPA of 1977 which allow the president to act against an

unusual and extraordinary threat... to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States [that originates] in whole or substantial part outside the United States.

It would allow the President to control or prohibit any transfer of money or assets from the USA to a foriegn company.

However this act is generally interpreted to be used in war or war-like confrontations with a foreign power. Its really meant to stop people trading with the enemy.

The act would require the President to declare a national emergency and then consult Congress immediately and every six months.

It is far from clear what view the courts would take on this.

There may be other powers implicit in the federal communications regulations that the President can employ.

  • Followup question: Could he make such an order in a way that relevant federal agencies would have to comply until there is a court ruling? Aug 2, 2020 at 1:51
  • There's also the minor problem that TikTok is apparently free to use, so there are no money transfers happening by its users. (Of course, whoever TikTok sells the information they collect might be covered by this, but if anyone believed that said buyer was a US national this wouldn't even be considered a problem in the first place) Aug 2, 2020 at 9:23
  • 1
    Follow-up that could be a question on Law.se, but generally laws and executive orders are considered valid until the courts say otherwise. @Shadur, tiktok maks money from in-app purchases. It can't operate for long if it has no income stream. And other companies can't work with it if it can't pay its bills.
    – James K
    Aug 2, 2020 at 10:05
  • What about the tariffs he signed under pretense of national security without declaring state of emergency?
    – J.C
    Aug 2, 2020 at 22:34
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    You wrote "The act would require the President to declare a national emergency and then consult Congress immediately and every six months.", but he did not do the former for his trade related EO
    – J.C
    Aug 2, 2020 at 22:55

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