Donald Trump to block US TikTok and WeChat downloads on September 20: report
Officials said the ban on new TikTok downloads in the US could be overturned by President Donald Trump before it goes into effect Sunday night, as TikTok owner ByteDance rushes to shut down a agreement on the destination of its operations in the USA.
ByteDance has been in talks with Oracle Corp and others to create a new company, TikTok Global, that aims to address US concerns about the security of its users’ data. ByteDance still needs Trump’s approval to avoid a ban in the United States.
The Commerce Department order will “tear down” the two applications in the United States and prohibit Apple Inc’s application store, Alphabet Inc’s Google Play and others from offering the applications on any platform “that can be accessed from within. the United States, “said a Commerce executive. an official told Reuters.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made public.
The order will not prohibit US companies from doing business on WeChat outside the United States, which will be good news for US companies such as Walmart and Starbucks that use WeChat’s built-in ‘mini-app’ programs to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China.
The order will not prohibit transactions with other businesses of WeChat owner Tencent Holdings, including its online gaming operations, and will not prohibit Apple, Google, or others from offering TikTok or WeChat applications anywhere outside of the United States.
The bans are in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump on Aug. 6 that gave the commerce department 45 days to determine which transactions to block from apps that it deemed pose a threat to national security. That deadline expires on Sunday.
Commerce department officials said they were taking an extraordinary step due to the risks posed by collecting data from apps. China and the companies have denied collecting data from US users for spying.
In a statement to Reuters, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said “we have taken significant steps to combat China’s malicious collection of personal data of US citizens, while promoting our national values, rules-based democratic norms. and aggressive enforcement of US laws and regulations. ”
The order will be posted at 8:45 am EDT (1245 GMT) on Friday, officials said.
The Trump administration has stepped up its efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks, calling TikTok and WeChat “significant threats.”
TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and is especially popular with younger Americans.
WeChat has averaged 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular with Chinese students, expats, and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.
WeChat is an all-in-one mobile application that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and has over a billion users.
The department of commerce will not seek to force people in the United States to remove the apps or stop using them, but it will not allow updates or new downloads. “We are targeting a higher corporate level. We are not going to go after individual users,” a Commerce official said.
Over time, officials said, the lack of updates will degrade the usability of the apps.
“The expectation is that people will find alternative ways to carry out these actions,” said a senior official. “We expect the market to act and there will be safer applications that will fill these gaps that Americans can trust and that the US government will not have to take similar action on.”
Commerce is also banning additional technical transactions with WeChat starting Sunday that will significantly reduce the usability and functionality of the app in the United States.
The order prohibits data hosting within the United States for WeChat, content delivery services, and networks that may increase the functionality and traffic of the Internet or traffic exchange services.
“What will happen immediately is that users will experience lag or lack of functionality,” a senior Commerce official said of WeChat users. “It may still be usable, but it won’t be as functional as before.” There may also be sporadic outages, the official said.
Commerce will ban the same set of technical transactions for TikTok, but that won’t go into effect until November 12 to give the company additional time to see if ByteDance can reach a deal for its US operations. The official said that TikTok users in the US would not see “a major difference” in app performance until November 12.
Commerce will not penalize people who use TikTok or WeChat in the United States. The order does not prevent the storage of data within the United States for WeChat or TikTok.
Some Americans may find alternative solutions. There is nothing to stop an American from traveling to a foreign country and downloading any of the apps, or potentially using a virtual private network and desktop client, the officials admitted.