In response to President Trump’s executive orders, the US government will ban Chinese-owned WeChat from US app stores as of Sunday to “safeguard the national security of the United States.”
As of September 20, 2020, “any provision of service to distribute or maintain the WeChat or TikTok mobile applications, constituent code, or application updates through an online mobile application store in the U.S.” The restrictions will ban the transferring funds or processing payments through the WeChat app within the US as of Sunday.
The restrictions will also prevent any company from offering internet hosting services, content delivery networks, internet transit or peering services to WeChat, or using the app’s code in other software or services in the United States.
The same prohibitions on providing services go into effect for TikTok as of 12 November according to the US Department of Commerce, which gives the company more time to solidify a deal for its US operations. Commerce officials said the ban on new US downloads of TikTok could still be rescinded by President Trump before it takes effect late Sunday as TikTok owner ByteDance races to confirm an agreement over the fate of its US operations.
“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,” said US Department of Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross 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.”
The order will not stop transactions on WeChat outside of the US, and will not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the United States.
The news follows an executive order by the President, which TikTok “continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy and economy of the US.”
ByteDance has been in talks with Oracle and others to create TikTok Global, which aims to combat US concerns around data privacy. Trump alleged that TikTok “continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy and economy of the US.” ByteDance still needs Trump’s approval to avoid a ban in the US.
TikTok has 10 million users in the US and WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the US, according to Analytics firm Apptopia.
In the announcement, the US government said that both apps collect “vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories. Additionally, each is subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP. Therefore, resulting in the use of WeChat and TikTok “creating unacceptable risks to our national security.” China has denied this is the case.
Over time, officials have predicted that the lack of updates will reduce the app’s usability.