The US Department of Commerce has announced that it will ban TikTok and WeChat from app stores beginning Sunday unless a last-minute deal is approved.
According to the commerce department, it will ban people in the US from downloading the messaging app WeChat and video sharing app TikTok through any app store on any platform.
Trump’s executive orders
In early August, President Trump issued executive orders banning the two Chinese-owned apps if their Chinese-owned parent companies fail to sell them in 45 days. The US government is claiming that these firms are a threat to the country’s national security.
The TikTok order states that after 45 days, “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd.,” will be prohibited.
The order also makes the accusation that the social media platform “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users,” such as location data and browsing and search histories, which “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”
Meanwhile, the executive order issued for Tencent-owned WeChat, which allows its users to transfer funds to each other, states that financial transactions with Tencent will be banned.
The order prohibits “any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings Ltd. (a.k.a. Téngxùn Kònggǔ Yǒuxiàn Gōngsī), Shenzhen, China, or any subsidiary of that entity, as identified by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) under section 1(c) of this order.”
Implementation of the ban
Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said: “At the president’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data.”
While the department admits that the levels of threat posed by WeChat and TikTok are different, it said that both firms collected “vast swathes of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories”.
Under the order, people in the US will not be able to use WeChat to transfer funds or process payments to or from people in the country starting Sunday. Meanwhile, TikTok users will still be able to access the app normally but they will not be able to download new updates.
The commerce department stated: “The President has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved.” Beyond this date, some technical transactions will be banned on the app which would affect functionality.
Ross added that “the basic TikTok will stay intact until November 12” but WeChat “for all practical purposes… will be shut down in the US, but only in the US, as of midnight Monday”.
Responses from TikTok and WeChat
TikTok expressed disappointment over the order and disagreed with the commerce department by saying it had already committed to “unprecedented levels of additional transparency” to address the Trump administration’s concerns.
The firm said: “We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods.”
On the other hand, WeChat-owner TenCent called the announced restrictions “unfortunate”, but assured that they would continue talks with the US government “to achieve a long-term solution”.