TikTok reacted to President Donald Trump's executive order barring U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with its parent company, ByteDance, by threatening to take legal action and urging its U.S. users to lobby on its behalf.
Trump ordered sweeping bans late Thursday prohibiting U.S. companies from doing business with ByteDance and Tencent, the owner of the messenger app WeChat. The executive orders targeting the Chinese companies go into effect in 45 days.
“We are shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process,” ByteDance said in a statement released Friday.
The company suggested that the executive order was illegal and that it might be challenged in court. "We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly — if not by the Administration, then by the U.S. courts," the company said.
In the meantime, Tencent responded by saying it was evaluating the situation. "The company is reviewing the potential consequences of the administrative order in order to fully understand its impact," Tencent said in a brief statement issued through Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
In addition to its hugely popular messaging feature, WeChat also links to finance and other services. It claims that the app has more than 1 billion users.
The Trump administration and U.S. lawmakers have expressed concerns that the Chinese social media services could provide American users’ personal information to the Chinese government. Both companies have said they do not share their data with the Chinese government.
The twin executive orders Thursday added new contention to growing U.S.-Chinese conflict over technology and security. The Chinese foreign ministry accused Washington of “political suppression” and said the moves would hurt American companies and consumers.
“The United States is using national security as an excuse, frequently abuses national power and unreasonably suppresses companies of other countries,” Wang Wenbin, a ministry spokesman, said.
Wang, who did not mention TikTok or Tencent by name, said China strongly opposed the move but gave no indication of how Beijing might retaliate.
The Trump administration has previously threatened to shut TikTok down if it remains under the ownership of Beijing-based ByteDance.
According to a memo sent Monday by Chief Executive Officer Zhang Yiming, ByteDance is exploring all possibilities to ensure that its subsidiary can continue operating in the United States. Without naming Microsoft directly, the company said Friday, "We even stated that we could sell our U.S. business to a U.S. company."
The statement ended by calling on its 100 million U.S. users to put pressure on the Trump administration.
"As TikTok users, creators, partners and family members, you have the right to express your opinions to all levels of lawmakers, including the White House government," the statement said.