Whats happening?

Recently, the Trump administration has announced their intention to ban the popular social media application TikTok. The Trump administration claims this is on the grounds of national security, accusing TikTok of being an agent of the Chinese Communist Party. TikTok denies these claims and counters with statistics of American ownership/employment. As a result, TikTok is currently in a fire sale mode in the financial markets - with potential buyers being Microsoft amongst other tech giants.

How will he do this?

What specific legal mechanisms will the Trump administration use to enforce this ban?

Are there any restrictions?

What conditions must be met in order for the executive branch of the government to employ these mechanisms? Can these mechanisms be arbitrarily leveraged by the current/future President? Do these same laws apply to domestic companies?

Would it be plausible for these same legislative mechanisms to be used in the future for the purpose of selecting winners/losers in the tech industry at the personal discretion of the President?

For example: banning Twitter on the grounds of national security and force it to sell to another domestic platform that is more aligned with the president's world view?


The authority for the ban is laid out here: all that is required is putting the company on the Commerce Department's entity list. More specifically, under 50 USC 1701 there must be an

unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States, if the President declares a national emergency with respect to such threat

If that condition is satisfied (and it has been: we have the emergency), then 50 USC 1702 grants POTUS broad economic powers, including prohibiting transactions in foreign exchange, or any kind of transaction involving any right regarding any property. Under that order, one implementational step for putting a company on the list is an executive review involving the

Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the United States Trade Representative, the Director of National Intelligence, the Administrator of General Services, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and, as appropriate, the heads of other executive departments and agencies

There must be a determination that

the transaction involves information and communications technology or services designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied, by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of a foreign adversary

and that the transaction "is a threat". This last requirement is the tallest hurdle that a Twitter-ban would face, namely establishing that Twitter is controlled by a foreign adversary.

  • 1
    Do you mean TicTok rather than Twitter?
    – Dale M
    Aug 1 '20 at 21:48
  • 1
    I mean Twitter, in my last line: this is with reference to the last sentence in the OP – this is what distinguished a TicTok ban from a Twitter ban.
    – user6726
    Aug 1 '20 at 23:35
  • Which countries can be considered a foreign adversary?
    – AlanSTACK
    Aug 3 '20 at 8:02

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