On Friday, the Trump administration announced it would ban the Chinese-owned mobile apps WeChat and TikTok from app stores in the US on Sunday. The two services are currently used by more than 100 million people in the US.
The ban will block the transfer of funds or payments through WeChat in the US. In addition, companies will be prevented from providing internet hosting, content delivery networks, internet transit or peering services to WeChat, and barred from using the app’s code in other software or services in the US. These restrictions will also apply to TikTok as of November 12.
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“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,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
On August 6, Trump issued an executive order that claimed that TikTok and WeChat might be providing the Chinese government with personal data from American users. The administration has stated that it could impose fines of up to $1 million and up to 20 years in prison for violations of the order.
Although TikTok was reportedly considering selling its US assets to Oracle, no deal has been finalized. The administration has given TikTok until November 12 to resolve national security concerns. Neither TikTok nor Oracle have commented on the potential sale.
Ross, in an interview on Fox Business Network on Friday morning, said that the ban would initially have a greater impact on WeChat. “For all practical purposes it will be shut down in the U.S., but only in the U.S., as of midnight Monday,” he added.
TikTok will also be shut down on November 12 if the administration’s concerns are not addressed, Ross said. “As to TikTok, the only real change as of Sunday night will be users won’t have access to improved updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance,” he added.
Some have speculated that Google and Apple, the major operators of American app stores, might sue the Trump administration since they consider the decision arbitrary and a potential violation of the First Amendment. Adam Segal, a cybersecurity expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the administration’s focus on TikTok and WeChat felt improvised since similar foreign companies have not been targeted.
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