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VERIFY: Has the U.S. ever placed a total ban on a foreign app?

The Biden administration continues to look for ways to block TikTok.

ATLANTA — The United Kingdom and New Zealand are the latest countries placing bans on the popular app TikTok, prompting an 11Alive viewer to ask if anything like this has ever happened before.


Has the U.S. government has ever placed a total ban a on a foreign app?

Our sources

  • The International Emergency Economic Powers Act
  • The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States
  • Andy Green, cybersecurity expert at Kennesaw State.


This is false.

No, so far, the U.S. has never fully banned Americans from using apps created by companies outside of the U.S. 

What we found

Congress has already banned TikTok on government owned devices but Green points out that a total ban in the U.S. is different.

“From a technical perspective, being able to ban Tiktok from individual devices is a pretty complex affair,” he explained. “You can’t just go to Google and say don’t let U.S. Citizens install.”

In 2020, then President Donald Trump attempted an entire U.S. ban of TikTok and other apps based in China using the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The President’s move came after the Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S. investigated the security threat from the apps.

However, TikTok sued and the ban never took effect.

The Federal Communications Commission has successfully blocked two telecommunications companies in China from selling equipment to the U.S. because of what the FCC calls an “unacceptable risk” to national security.

“Nation states over the last few years have come to realize the potential for the threat there,” said Green.

Still, two proposals are making their way through Congress that could make it easier for the U.S. to block apps like TikTok.

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