Trump issues order effectively banning TikTok and WeChat in the USA
Earlier this week President Donald Trump threatened to block TikTok unless a US corporation acquires the China-based device. He enshrined the threat into an executive order on Thursday, calling widespread use of Chinese apps a “public emergency.”
“The proliferation of smartphone apps developed and operated by companies in the People’s Republic of China in the United States continues to challenge United States national security, foreign policy and economy,” reads the executive order. “Action must be taken at this time to tackle the threat posed by one particular mobile application, TikTok.”
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Coming hours after the Senate unanimously voted to ban ByteDance-owned TikTok from all government devices, the order states that it will prohibit “any transaction by any individual” with ByteDance or its subsidiaries in 45 days. This will probably mean that Apple and Google would no longer be able to list the app in their respective app stores, similar to the ban on Huawei-dealing US businesses.
The executive order outlining TikTok ‘s hazard specifically bars transactions with ByteDance, rather than TikTok. This potentially opens up the possibility that TikTok will continue to function under a U.S. corporation like Microsoft, which was thinking about purchasing some or all of TikTok.
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The concern of the US government stems from the data collected by TikTok and WeChat on their U.S. users, as well as the perceived inability of Chinese companies such as ByteDance and TenCent to reject requests from the ruling Communist Party of China to access those data. Sometimes cited by China’s critics is a 2017 law that requires Chinese businesses and people to comply with all national security matters.
“TikTok automatically gathers large swaths of information from its users, including information about internet and other network operation such as location data and browsing and search history,” reads the order. “This data collection threatens to enable the Chinese Communist Party to access the personal and proprietary information of Americans —- potentially allowing China to track federal employees and contractors’ locations, build blackmail personal information records, and conduct corporate spying.”
The executive order also cites claims that TikTok censors content in line with CCP guidelines, such as posts focusing on the Tiananmen Square massacre and Xinjiang’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims as a cause for concern. Trump’s order on WeChat cited concern that the app, which in 2016 had just under 900 million Chinese users, could be used to spy on Chinese nationalists who are visiting or immigrating to America.
The US is the second country in recent months to pass legislation against TikTok. India, along with more than 50 other Chinese-made applications and games, barred the app in June. India said that it banned the apps for reasons of national security following skirmishes between Chinese and Indian troops over disputed territories north of India and south of China that left 20 Indian soldiers dead. Australia has also considered banning the application, but its prime minister on Wednesday said there was “no reason” to restrict the app “at this point.”
In a frank blog post TikTok blasted the executive order accusing the administration of behaving in bad faith.
“For almost a year, we have endeavored to work in good faith with the US Government to have a constructive response to the concerns raised,” TikTok’s blog post reads.
“What we found then was that the administration didn’t pay attention to the facts, imposed terms of an agreement without going through normal legal channels, and sought to inject itself into private-sector negotiations.”
Previously, the company refuted attempts to engage in espionage with the Chinese Government. “Responsibility and accountability come with our success,” CEO Kevin Mayer wrote in a blog post last week. “The entire industry has been scrutinized, and rightly so. But, due to the Chinese roots of the company, we have received even more scrutiny.”