The Trump administration will ban the Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat from U.S. app stores beginning this Sunday.
Messaging app WeChat, which is popular among Chinese Americans for keeping in touch with family in China, will also be blocked from sending money and processing payments. "For all practical purposes, it will be shut down in the U.S.,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday morning on Fox News.
TikTok will remain available to the 100 million people who have already downloaded it in the U.S. for now, but the Department of Commerce said in a statement that from Nov. 12, the app will be shut down completely too.
However, any app updates won’t be available to U.S. users starting Sunday.
The Trump administration said it was making the decision to “safeguard the national security of the United States” and “combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data.”
The actions come more than a month after Trump signed an executive order banning the apps, claiming that TikTok and WeChat collect data from American users that could be accessed by the Chinese government.
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the U.S. Today’s announced prohibitions, when combined, protect users in the U.S. by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality,” the Department of Commerce said in a statement on Friday morning
But Sunday’s ban on TikTok may be avoided if U.S. software company Oracle can agree a deal with Chinese company ByteDance over the U.S. operation of TikTok.
A deal announced earlier this week and being reviewed by the White House would see Oracle become a minority shareholder in TikTok’s U.S. operations, falling short of the outright sale that Trump called for last month.
Trump had set Sept. 15 as the deadline for a deal to be completed, but he is expected to make a decision on the current deal before Sunday.
The deal has been strongly criticized by members of Congress who say it does not do enough to offset the national security concerns raised by TikTok’s collection of data and its algorithm’s ability to share Chinese propaganda on the platform.
Cover: Photo by: STRF/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 9/18/20 Trump to block U.S. downloads of TikTok, WeChat on Sunday, 9/20/20. STAR MAX File Photo: 8/30/20 Corporate Logos are seen on an Apple laptop computer.