US bans WeChat, TikTok from app stores citing security risk
The move comes close on the heels of India’s ban of the two apps along with 57 others following border clashes with China; 118 more have since been added to India’s ban list.Updated: Sep 18, 2020, 20:57 IST
The US will ban TikTok and WeChat from Sunday over concerns that they pose a national security threat, and put technical restrictions on the Chinese-owned apps that would effectively shut them down in the country.
The move comes close on the heels of India’s ban of the two apps along with 57 others following border clashes with China; 118 more have since been added to India’s ban list.
The commerce department said US businesses will be prohibited in a staggered manner from conducting financial transactions relating to the companies.
TikTok, a widely popular video sharing platform owned by ByteDance; and WeChat, a messaging, social media and mobile payment app developed by Tencent, will not be available for downloads or upgrades from Google and Apple stores from Sunday night.
The bans affect only new downloads and updates and are less sweeping than expected, particularly for TikTok, giving ByteDance some breathing space to clinch an agreement over the fate of its US operations. Oracle Corporation is in talks to buy a 20% minority stake in TikTok.
WeChat faces more severe restrictions from Sunday. Existing TikTok users, on the other hand, will see little change until November 12 when a ban on some technical transactions will kick in, affecting its functionality.
“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 US laws and regulations,” said commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, announcing the new orders in a statement on Friday.
The order prohibits “any provision of service to distribute or maintain” these apps in the US from Sunday. It also bans financial transactions on WeChat from Sunday in the US. The app is widely used by American companies for marketing in China, which does not allow outside social media companies there such as Facebook. US companies will also not be allowed to provide internet hosting and cloud services for the app.
The US targeted these Chinese apps in August through two presidential executive orders, saying they posed a threat to its national security. It had earlier welcomed the ban on TikTok and other Chinese apps by India.
President Donald Trump’s executive order had given TikTok 45 days to find an American buyer for its US operation or face closure. Microsoft had emerged as a top bidder but it has since backed out, leaving the field to Oracle, in partnership with Walmart.