Trump administration to ban Americans from downloading TikTok, WeChat
The Trump administration announced Friday morning that it will ban Chinese-owned messaging and payment app WeChat effective Sunday and block new downloads of video-sharing app TikTok on the same day.
A broader ban of TikTok will be delayed until Nov. 12, with a takeover of its U.S. operations still in the works.
“At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a prepared statement.
The Commerce Department’s announcement comes ahead of an expected decision by President Trump about whether to approve a proposal from software maker Oracle to invest in a newly restructured TikTok, with operations based in the U.S.
The moves were telegraphed in an executive order from President Trump earlier this summer banning transactions with WeChat, owned by Tencent Holdings, and TikTok, owned by Bytedance. The order gave TikTok 45 days to sell its U.S. business to a U.S. company or face a nationwide ban.
Over a dozen U.S. companies, including Apple Inc., Walmart Inc. and Walt Disney Co., held a call last month with the Trump administration to express concerns about what they characterized as vagueness in the order. TikTok sued the Trump administration on Aug. 24 in response to the order.
The Commerce Department statement said that starting Sept. 20, U.S. companies would be banned from distributing WeChat and TikTok. The restrictions will ban the transferring of funds or processing through WeChat in the U.S. starting Sunday.
It will also bar any company from offering interesting hosting, content delivery networks, internet transit or peering services to WeChat, essentially shutting down the platform “for all practical purposes” in the U.S., according to Ross.
Those same restrictions go into effect for TikTok on Nov. 12.
Ross said the “only real change as of Sunday night” for TikTok will be that users “won’t have access to improved apps, updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance.”
“The basic TikTok will stay intact until Nov. 12,” Ross told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo. “If there’s not a deal by Nov. 12 under the provisions of the old order, then TikTok would also be, for all practical purposes, shut down.”
Officials have previously said that TikTok, which has about 100 million users in the U.S., could provide data collected from American users to the Chinese government. The company, like other social media companies, collects data such as users’ locations and messages. TikTok has said it does not store U.S. user data in China and has repeatedly said that it would not give that information to the Beijing government.