The US Commerce Department announced Friday morning that it will ban US business transactions with social network WeChat and TikTok on Sunday.
According to the announcement, US companies will be prohibited from distributing WeChat and TikTok, which means that the two major mobile application stores operated by Apple and Google will have to delete these applications from their libraries.
The Commerce Department also blocks US companies from providing services through WeChat “for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the US”.
Users who have already downloaded the apps may be able to continue using the software, but these restrictions may mean that the updated version can no longer be downloaded.
The department’s move is to implement the executive orders issued by US President Donald Trump on August 6, which stated that the two popular social networks owned by Chinese companies will be banned in the US within 45 days due to national security concerns.
Sunday is the end of the 45-day period. WeChat is one of the most popular social messaging apps in the world and is owned by the Chinese tech giant Tencent. The viral short video app TikTok is owned by Beijing-headquartered ByteDance.
"While the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, they are similar. Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories," wrote the statement.
Besides, the announcement also prohibits US companies from providing internet hosting services and content delivery network services, etc, for these two Chinese apps.
For WeChat, these terms will be implemented on Sept 20, but a separate timetable, which will be effected on November 12, is set for TikTok. This could be directed at the deal being negotiated between TikTok and Oracle, which would provide cloud services for TikTok if Trump approves, and could give TikTok and Oracle more time to hammer out a deal that will satisfy the president.
“It’s not doing the same thing to TikTok as to WeChat,” Ross told Fox News. “As to TikTok, it’s just upgraded, maintenance things like that, that would be shut down at this stage. The real shutdown would come after Nov. 12 in the event that there is not another transaction. So it’s very different how the way the two are being handled.”
Prior to this, TikTok filed a lawsuit in August against the executive order, claiming that it violated due process rights. Meanwhile, the non-profit organization US WeChat User Alliance also sued the White House on August 21, alleging that the ban infringed the constitutional rights of citizens.
The alliance stated that although the US Department of Justice has promised not to prohibit individual users from using WeChat, the Commerce Department has ignored this guarantee. "Therefore, we will continue to fight in court to call off the executive order and the action of Commerce Department," said a representative from the alliance.
The statement issued by WeChat pointed out that the executive order and the actions of the Commerce Department represent discrimination against Chinese Americans, and they will aggressively seek all available legal remedies to stop the WeChat ban.
Here’s the full statement from WeChat:
What we have feared has happened. Despite the public “assurances” provided by the Department of Justice to the Court on Wednesday that individual users will not be affected, the U.S. government is banning WeChat completely. The Executive Order and today’s Commerce Department rule represent a serious violation of the Constitutional and statutory rights of millions of WeChat users in the U.S. Shutting down an entire platform or medium is unprecedented in this country and goes directly against the First Amendment. Moreover, WeChat is primarily used by Chinese Americans, and its ban will have a disparate impact on them. WeChat is the main messaging app available in both the United States and China and has facilitated the development of widespread networks of communication between Chinese Americans and Chinese nationals. The Executive Order and the Commerce Department rule’s discriminatory effects upon Chinese Americans are real and unconstitutional.
Both the President and the Secretary have claimed the national security threat is due to the fact that the Chinese government collects data on and surveil WeChat users in the U.S. However, the U.S. government has not provided any evidence to the Court to prove such a threat. Even if there is legitimate concern in this area, narrowly tailored solutions exist instead of a complete ban.
Millions of people in this country rely on WeChat as the primary and often exclusive means to communicate with family members as well as friends in both China and the United States. They use WeChat to run businesses and non-profit organizations, practice their religions, receive news, organize for political causes, contribute to charities, and maintain social bonds. WeChat is even more important to them during this time of pandemic when people are unable to meet physically. Today’s rule from the Commerce Department highlights the urgent need for a preliminary injunction, and we will aggressively seek all available legal remedies to stop the WeChat ban.
Also, in an emailed statement, TikTok said it disagrees with the decision from the Commerce Department and it will continue to challenge the unjust executive order.
Here’s the full statement from TikTok:
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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. government oversight of U.S. data security. Further, an American technology provider would be responsible for maintaining and operating the TikTok network in the U.S., 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.
In the US, WeChat has approximately 19 million daily active users, while TikTok has more than 100 million monthly active users.