The Trump administration announced Friday morning that it will ban Chinese-owned messaging and payment app WeChat effective Sunday and block new downloads of video-sharing app TikTok the same day over national security concerns.
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A broader ban of TikTok will be delayed until Nov. 12, with a takeover of its U.S. operations still in the works.
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“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 U.S. laws and regulations,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
The Commerce Department’s announcement comes ahead of an expected decision by President Trump about whether to approve a proposal from software maker Oracle to invest in a restructured TikTok, with operations based in the U.S. Oracle was among the group of bidders, including Microsoft and Walmart, looking to buy TikTok’s U.S. operations.
“This type of ban would be bad for the industry,” Vanessa Pappas, interim head of TikTok, said in a Twitter post. “We invite Facebook and Instagram to publicly join our challenge and support our litigation. This is a moment to put aside our competition and focus on core principles like freedom of expression and due process of law.”
Trump’s moves were telegraphed in an executive order earlier this summer banning transactions with WeChat, owned by Tencent Holdings, and TikTok, owned by Bytedance. The order gave TikTok — one of the most popular social media apps in the world — 45 days to sell its American business to a U.S. company or face a nationwide prohibition.
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TikTok sued the Trump administration on Aug. 24 in response, and over a dozen U.S. companies, including Apple Inc., Walmart Inc. and Walt Disney Co., held a call last month with the Trump administration to express concerns about what they characterized as vagueness in the order.
The measures announced Friday will ban the transferring of funds or processing through WeChat in the U.S. starting Sunday and bar any company from offering hosting, content delivery networks or internet transit to WeChat.
“For all practical purposes, it will be shut down in the U.S., but only in the U.S., as of midnight Monday,” Ross told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo.
The same restrictions go into effect for TikTok on Nov. 12.
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Ross said the “only real change as of Sunday night” for TikTok will be that users “won’t have access to improved apps, updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance.”
“The basic TikTok will stay intact until Nov. 12,” he said. “If there’s not a deal by Nov. 12 under the provisions of the old order, then TikTok would also be, for all practical purposes, shut down.”
Neither TikTok nor WeChat will be available to download as of midnight Sunday, according to senior Commerce Department officials who spoke with reporters on the condition of anonymity on Friday.
The officials said that WeChat may continue to function for users who already have the app installed on their device. However, there could be some issues since WeChat relies on services run by U.S. companies to deliver data.
Officials have previously said that TikTok, which has about 100 million users in the U.S., could provide data collected from American users to the Chinese government. The company, like other social media companies, collects data such as users’ locations and messages.
TikTok has said it does not store U.S. user data in China and has repeatedly said that it would not give that information to the Beijing government.
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