The United States government just announced that the video-sharing social app TikTok and the social app WeChat will be banned in the US starting on Sunday “to protect the national security of the United States.”
President Donald Trump had signed an executive order in August to force a sale of TikTok to a US-based company. This month, TikTok began working with Oracle to spin TikTok off as an independent company in the US with a minority stake held by Oracle. The Trump administration has now decided that an arrangement in which ByteDance (the Chinese owner of TikTok) retains a majority share doesn’t resolve security concerns.
“In response to President Trump’s Executive Orders signed August 6, 2020, the Department of Commerce (Commerce) today announced prohibitions on transactions relating to mobile applications (apps) WeChat and TikTok to safeguard the national security of the United States,” reads an announcement posted to the Department of Commerce’s website. “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the U.S.”
The US accuses the social media apps of collecting “vast swaths of data” from Americans, including network activity, location data, and browsing/search histories.
“Each is an active participant in China’s civil-military fusion and is subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP,” the Commerce Department states. “This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security.”
Starting on Sunday, September 20th, TikTok and WeChat will be banned from app stores in the United States. The Chinese owners of the apps will also be banned from hosting them in the US starting on November 12th.
Major American websites and apps ranging from Facebook to Flickr to Twitter to Instagram have long been banned in China, which tightly controls Internet content and blocks websites and apps determined to not be in the interests of the state.
“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” says Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US.”
The order states that if TikTok can address the national security concerns posed by their respective apps by November 12th, this ban may be lifted.
CNBC is hearing from a Trump administration official that while WeChat is now “dead” in the US, TikTok still has a chance to make changes to continue operating in the US.