THE Trump administration will ban WeChat and video-sharing app TikTok from US app stores starting Sunday(20) night, a move that will block Americans from downloading the Chinese-owned platforms over concerns they pose a national security threat.
The bans, announced on Friday(18), affect only new downloads and updates and are less sweeping than expected, particularly for TikTok, giving its parent group ByteDance some breathing space to clinch an agreement over the fate of its US operations.
WeChat, an all-in-one messaging, social media and electronic payment app, faces more severe restrictions from Sunday. Existing TikTok users, on the other hand, will see little change until November 12 when a ban on some technical transactions will kick in, which TikTok said would amount to an effective ban.
The commerce department order bars Apple Inc’s app store, Alphabet Inc’s Google Play and others from offering the apps on any platform “that can be reached from within the United States,” a senior commerce official said.
“We disagree with the decision from the commerce department, and are disappointed that it stands to block new app downloads from Sunday and ban use of the TikTok app in the US from Nov. 12,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order.”
China’s commerce ministry expressed its “resolute opposition” and urged the US to stop its bullying and wrongdoing.
“If the US side obstinately clings to its course, China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies,” it said, without elaborating.
However, Trump did not indicate whether he would back a TikTok deal. He said a deal “could go quickly.”
“We have some great options and maybe we can keep a lot of people happy,” Trump told reporters. “We have to have the total security from China.”
Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network that “the basic TikTok will stay intact until Nov. 12.”
The ban on new US downloads of the widely popular app could still be rescinded by president Donald Trump before it takes effect if ByteDance seals a deal with Oracle that addresses concerns about the security of users’ data.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden promised to review security risks surrounding TikTok if he beats Trump in the Nov. 3 election.
The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks amid escalating tensions with Beijing on a range of issues from trade and human rights to the battle for tech supremacy.
The ban on WeChat, used by over 1 billion people worldwide, bars the transfer of funds or processing of payments to or from people in the US through it. Users could also start to experience significantly slower service or sporadic outages from Sunday night.
WeChat developer Tencent Holdings’ called the order “unfortunate” but said it “will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the US ways to achieve a long-term solution.”
The order will not bar transactions with WeChat owner Tencent’s other businesses, including its online gaming operations, and will not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the US.