For months, President Trump has been teasing some kind of ban on TikTok, keeping the specifics vague and details thin — so when the official executive order came down last week, no one knew quite what to think. The order calls for a complete halt of all US transactions with TikTok’s parent company by September 20th, a severe response to national security concerns that are still abstract. Many observers have sidestepped the alarming implications of the order, treating it as a tactical threat to speed along talks with Microsoft. But if the TikTok ban is a bargaining tactic, it’s an incredibly dangerous one.
The Microsoft acquisition could fall through in half a dozen different ways. (As recently as last week, the companies were still disagreeing over how many countries would be covered.) If the deal falls apart, banks will be forced to cut ties with TikTok as soon as the September 20th deadline arrives, wreaking havoc on the company’s day-to-day operations. The damage wouldn’t be total or immediate, but it’s hard to imagine TikTok’s US business surviving the chaos.