CBR
search

US bans WeChat, TikTok from app stores, threatens shutdowns

The US Commerce Department said Friday it will ban Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat from US app stores on Sunday and will bar the apps from accessing essential internet services in the US — a move that could effectively wreck the operation of both Chinese services for US users.

Signage is displayed at the TikTok Creator’s Lab 2019 event hosted by Bytedance Ltd. in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.

TikTok won’t face the most drastic sanctions until after the November 3 election, but WeChat users could feel the effects as early as Sunday.

The order, which cited national security and data privacy concerns, follows weeks of dealmaking over the video-sharing service TikTok. President Donald Trump has pressured the app’s Chinese owner to sell TikTok’s US operations to a domestic company to satisfy US concerns over TikTok’s data collection and related issues.

California tech giant Oracle recently struck a deal with TikTok along those lines, although details remain foggy and the administration is still reviewing it. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox Business Network Friday said the administration is still “negotiating and looking at the proposal.”

The new order puts pressure on TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, to make further concessions, said James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Trump said this week that he does not like the idea of ByteDance keeping majority control of TikTok.

TikTok expressed “disappointment” over the move and said it would continue to challenge President Donald Trump’s “unjust executive order.” The Commerce Department is enacting an order announced by President Donald Trump in August. TikTok sued to stop that ban.

WeChat owner Tencent said in an emailed statement that it will continue to discuss ways to address concerns with the government and look for long-term solutions.

President Donald Trump will order China’s ByteDance to sell its hit video app TikTok because of national-security concerns, according to reports published Friday, July 31, 2020. (AP Photo/File)

Google and Apple, the owners of the major mobile app stores, did not immediately reply to questions. Oracle also did not reply.

“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 US laws and regulations,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a prepared statement.

The order requires WeChat, which has millions of US users who rely on the app to stay in touch and conduct business with people and companies in China, to end payments through its service as of Sunday and prohibits it from getting technical services from vendors that could seriously impact its functions.

Similar technical limitations for TikTok don’t go into effect until November 12, shortly after the US election. Ross said early Friday on Fox Business Network that access to that app may be possible if certain safeguards are put into place. TikTok says it has 100 million US users and 700 million globally.

Like most social networks, TikTok collects user data and moderates users’ posts. It grabs users’ locations and messages and tracks what they watch to figure out how best to target ads to them.

TikTok says it does not store US user data in China and that it would not give user data to the government, and does not censor videos per dictates from China.