Starting this week, American companies will no longer be permitted to allow downloads or updates from Chinese-made apps TikTok and WeChat.
Companies will be prohibited from offering data-hosting services for WeChat, but may continue to do so for TikTok until November 12th.
American companies including Walmart and Disney will still be allowed to use WeChat to collect payments from Chinese customers.
“For all practical purposes, [WeChat] will be shut down in the US, but only in the US, as of midnight Monday,” said Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross. “The basic TikTok will stay intact until November 12th…If there’s a deal by November 12th under the provisions of the old order, then TikTok would also be, for all practical purposes, shut down.”
The Nov. 12th deadline gives Walmart and Oracle time to finalize a deal that would give them partial ownership of TikTok. The ban on TikTok is expected to be removed if President Trump approves the deal.
Democrats immediately criticized the ban as a violation of the First Amendment.
“This is about cutting off a medium of speech. That is unprecedented, even in the context of trade restrictions, and unconstitutional.”
According to Mr. Ross, the Chinese apps represent a real national security risk. And banning them will help protect Americans’ personal information from the Chinese government.
“Each [app] collects vast swathes of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories,” said the Commerce Department in a statement. “Each is an active participant in China’s civil-military fusion and is subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services” of the CCP.
It remains unclear how the Commerce Department will enforce the bans or punish violations; however, the two apps will gradually cease to function without updates.
TikTok and WeChat rejected the bans, describing them as disappointing and unnecessary. Both apps say they don’t store US data in China and wouldn’t share any data with the Chinese government, though we know Beijing can get its hands on any data it wants. In addition, the CEO of Tencent (owner of WeChat) is a longtime member of the National People’s Congress.
“Our community of 100 million US users love TikTok because it’s a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection,” said TikTok owner ByteDance. “And we’re committed to protecting their privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”
Tencent issued a similar statement and submitted a proposal to Washington to address the Trump Administration’s concerns.
Author’s Note: While this ban may represent an inconvenience for millions of American teenagers, President Trump is following through with his promise to protect our personal information from China. This is a good move.