WASHINGTON: Beginning Sunday night, the Trump administration will block WeChat and video-sharing app TikTok from U.S. app stores, a move that will prohibit Americans from accessing Chinese-owned services over fears that they pose a threat to national security.
The bans, announced on Friday, only affect new downloads and updates and are less sweeping than anticipated, particularly for TikTok, giving some breathing room to its parent company ByteDance to clinch an agreement about the fate of its U.S. operations.
WeChat, an all-in-one texting, social media, and electronic payment software, faces tighter Sunday restrictions. On the other hand, current TikTok users will see no improvement until Nov. 12, when a ban on such technological transactions kicks in, which TikTok said will be an effective ban.
We disagree with the Commerce Department ‘s decision, and are disappointed that it stands to block Sunday’s latest app downloads and prohibit the use of the TikTok app in the U.S. from Nov. 12, “the company said in a statement.” We disagree with the Commerce Department ‘s decision.
We will continue to fight the unfair executive order that was enforced without due process and seeks to deprive the people of the United States and small businesses across the United States of a vital voice and livelihood forum.”
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has told Fox Business Network that “the basic TikTok will remain intact until 12 November.”
President Donald Trump may also revoke the ban on new U.S. instals of the widely successful app until it takes effect if ByteDance seals an arrangement with Oracle that addresses concerns regarding the protection of data from its users.
“This is the right step-pressurize Beijing, defend Americans,” Republican Senator Josh Hawley said on Twitter.
The Trump administration has stepped up attempts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from U.S. digital networks in the midst of escalating tensions with Beijing over a variety of topics ranging from trade and human rights to tech dominance war.
The ban on WeChat, used by over 1 billion individuals worldwide, forbids the transfer of funds or the processing of payments through it to or from individuals in the United States. Users may also begin experiencing slower Sunday night service.
A senior trade official said that the Commerce Department ‘s order bars Apple Inc’s app store, Alphabet Inc’s Google Play and others from selling the software on any site “that can be accessed from within the United States.”
Although the bans are less dramatic than some had initially expected, officials at Commerce said additional transactions could be introduced later on.
After initially falling 1.6 percent in pre-market trading, Oracle shares were down 0.3 percent.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the Commerce Order “violates people’s First Amendment rights in the U.S. by limiting their freedom to connect and make large purchases on the two social media sites.”
It also added, “Blocking software updates, which can address bugs and make the apps more secure, harms the privacy and security of millions of current TikTok and WeChat users in the United States.”
The order would not prevent U.S. companies from doing business outside the United States on WeChat, which would welcome news to U.S. companies such as Walmart and Starbucks who use WeChat’s embedded ‘mini-app’ services to promote purchases and engage Chinese customers, officials said.
The order would not bar transactions with other companies of WeChat-owner Tencent Holdings, including its online gaming activities, and will not prevent Apple, Google or others from selling TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the U.S.
The bans are in response to a couple of executive orders released on Aug. 6 by Trump that gave 45 days to the Commerce Department to decide what transactions to block from the apps he found to pose a threat to national security. On Sunday, the deadline expires.
Officials from the Department of Commerce said they took the unprecedented measure because of the risks raised by data collection from the applications. China and the corporations have rejected the processing of U.S. user data for spying.
“We have taken substantial steps to tackle China’s malicious collection of personal data from American citizens, while supporting our national ideals, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive implementation of U.S. laws and regulations,” Ross said in a written statement.
Apple and Google did not respond to requests for comment immediately.
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