Trump administration issues order banning downloads of TikTok, WeChat beginning Sunday

Order would take hold on Sunday
Trump administration to issue order Friday banning downloads of TikTok, WeChat
Posted at 8:14 AM, Sep 18, 2020

The Trump administration issued an order on Friday that will attempt to ban Americans from downloading Chinese-owned social media apps TikTok and WeChat beginning Sunday.

The order issued by Commerce Department Sec. Wilbur Ross, requires companies like Apple and Google to remove the apps from their online stores by Sunday. It also orders that all U.S. companies cease working with WeChat to transfer funds or process payments in the app.

It's currently unclear if Apple and Google will choose to comply with the Commerce Department's order or if they will choose to file a lawsuit to keep the apps in their stores.

“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," Ross said in a statement. “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.”

There will be no penalty for those who have already downloaded the app and continue to use it to communicate. However, the order says that messaging on the apps "could be directly or indirectly impaired” by the order.

In the case of TikTok, the order stipulates that its parent company, ByteDance, has until Nov. 12 to "resolve" its national security concerns. ByteDance has been in talks to sell its American business with U.S. software company Oracle.

Privacy experts have raised concerns about both Chinese-owned apps, saying Americans' personal information could fall into the hands of the Chinese government. In August, Trump signed an order that set a Sept. 20 deadline for the sale of TikTok's U.S. business.

"Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories," the Commerce Department's order reads. "Each is an active participant in China’s civil-military fusion and is subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP. This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security."