The Department of Commerce declared Friday morning that on Sunday it would ban U.S. company transactions with Chinese-owned WeChat and TikTok social apps.
The announcement comes ahead of President Donald Trump’s anticipated statement Friday on whether or not the government will accept a deal for Oracle to take a minority stake in TikTok and become a “trusted technology partner” for the U.S. firm.
It is uncertain if the announcement by the Commerce Department means that there is no chance of a deal going through before the Sunday deadline, and it may be an aggressive move by the Trump Administration to press for its original aim that TikTok is wholly owned by a US corporation.
“We have taken substantial steps in the direction of the President to tackle China’s malicious collection of personal data of American citizens while fostering our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations,” said Trade Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement Friday.
The Commerce Department announced on Friday appears to implement Trump’s original August 6 executive order that gave TikTok 45 days to sell its U.S. business to a U.S. corporation or risk a ban in the U.S. WeChat is owned by the Chinese company Tencent, which is one of the world’s most popular social networking apps. The Chinese firm ByteDance is TikTok’s parent company. Trump’s executive order cited national security issues about access to consumer data in such applications by the Chinese government to explain the possible ban.
The Commerce Department’s statement on Friday said that starting Sept. 20, U.S. companies would be banned from distributing WeChat and TikTok, meaning the two major mobile app stores run by Apple and Google would have to remove the apps from their libraries. The statement also blocks U.S. companies from providing services through WeChat “to transfer funds or processing payments within the U.S.”
WeChat is a popular marketing and sales tool for U.S. companies primarily in China, but around the world as well. With U.S. social apps like Facebook and Instagram banned in China, WeChat is the primary app people use for social networking and e-commerce. It’s also a popular app used by people in the U.S. to communicate with people in China since U.S. apps are banned in China.
TikTok Statement:- “We disagree with the decision from the Commerce Department and are disappointed that it stands to block new app downloads from Sunday and ban the use of the TikTok app in the US from November 12. Our community of 100 million US users loves TikTok because it’s a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection, 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.
In our proposal to the US Administration, we’ve already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and US government oversight of US data security. Further, an American technology provider would be responsible for maintaining and operating the TikTok network in the US, which would include all services and data serving US consumers. We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods.”
TikTok’s statement on the ban, “We disagree with the decision from the Commerce Department and are disappointed that it stands to block new app downloads from Sunday and ban the use of the TikTok app in the US from November 12. Our community of 100 million US users loves TikTok because it’s a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection, 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.
It’s also a common app that people in the U.S. use to connect with people in China because U.S. apps in China are prohibited.
The announcement from the Commerce Department also sets out a different TikTok-specific period, which will impact on Nov. 12. The rules starting Nov. 12 contain provisions that block the provision of internet hosting and services for TikTok by U.S. companies. This could be aimed at the agreement being discussed between TikTok and Oracle, which, if Trump agrees, will provide TikTok with cloud services, which will give TikTok which Oracle more time to work out a deal that Trump would accept.