“At the president’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement. “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.”
Beginning Sunday, September 20th, WeChat, which is owned by the Chinese conglomerate Tencent, will no longer be available for download through app stores, while transferring of funds and processing of payments for existing users will also be barred. Any U.S. company in business with WeChat — from internet providers to third-party hosts — must also sever ties with the app.
TikTok — which, after a deal with Microsoft fell through, is reportedly negotiating a sale with U.S.-owned tech company Oracle — will also be removed from app stores on Sunday, and could face similar restrictions as WeChat beginning November 12th if a deal is not reached. Until that time, TikTok will still be accessible for U.S. users, although they will no longer be able to update the app on their device.
“The real shut down would come after November 12 in the event that there is not another transaction,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said of TikTok in a Fox Business Network interview (via NBC News). “So it’s very different how the two are being handled and that reflects the quantitative and the qualitative and differences between the two apps.”
The Department of Commerce’s prohibitions on WeChat and TikTok come over a month after Donald Trump signed an executive order that established a 90-day deadline for TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance to divest itself from its U.S. operations.
“There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance … might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” Trump wrote in the executive order. Soon after Trump signed the EO, TikTok sued the Trump administration for threatening to ban the app.