“We may be banning TikTok,” President Trump told reporters, saying an announcement could come as soon as this weekend.
He added there were other options – but how might a ban really work?
The obvious starting poiint would be to order Apple and Google to remove the app from their online stores in order to make it unavailable on official app sources.
This might be done by adding TikTok’s owner Bytedance to a Commerce Department entity list, and forbidding US firms from working with it – a similar tactic was used to stop Google providing its apps to Huawei sometime ago.
Existing users would be prevented from receiving notifications and installing updates, although they would still have the app on their devices.
One way to address this would be to tell Apple and Google to use a “kill switch” facility they both have, which lets them remotely wipe or prevent blacklisted apps from launching.
A Brazilian judge once threatened to force the two firms to use the power in 2014, but ultimately backed off.
Apple and Google would likely be loathe to take control of users’ smartphones in such a way and might even resist such an order.
So an easier alternative might be to compel local internet service providers to block access to TikTok’s servers. That would make the app useless on US networks.
But it’s not clear how Mr Trump would enforce such an order.