WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The U.S. Commerce Department will ban people in the United States from downloading Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat and video-sharing app TikTok starting on Sunday.
ByteDance has been in talks with Oracle Corp and others to create a new company, TikTok Global, that aims to address U.S. concerns about the security of its users’ data. ByteDance still needs President Donald Trump’s approval.
The Commerce Department will order the “deplatform” of the two apps in the United States and bar Apple’s app store and Google Play from offering the apps on any platform “that can be reached from within the United States.”
“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,” Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross said in a statement.
The order will not ban U.S. companies from doing business on WeChat outside the United States. U.S. firms like Walmart and Starbucks use WeChat’s embedded ‘mini-app’ programs to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China, Reuter reported.
As of September 20, 2020, the following transactions are prohibited:
1. 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.;
2. Any provision of services through the WeChat mobile application for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the U.S.
As of September 20, 2020, for WeChat and as of November 12, 2020, for TikTok, the following transactions are prohibited:
1. Any provision of internet hosting services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;
2. Any provision of content delivery network services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;
3. Any provision directly contracted or arranged internet transit or peering services enabling the function or optimization of the mobile application within the U.S.;
4. Any utilization of the mobile application’s constituent code, functions, or services in the functioning of software or services developed and/or accessible within the U.S.The U.S. Department of Commerce
According to the Commerce Department, the prohibitions may be lifted later if national security risks by TikTok are resolved.
“The President has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved. If they are, the prohibitions in this order may be lifted,” the department said.
TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and is especially popular among younger Americans.
WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, expats and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.
WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.
The Department of Commerce will not penalize people who use TikTok or WeChat in the United States.
A TikTok spokesman provided NewsNation with this 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 use of the TikTok app in the US from November 12. Our community of 100 million US users love 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.”
NewsNation also reached out to WeChat, Apple and Google, and will update the story when we receive statements.
This is a developing story.
Reuters contributed to this report.