TikTok and WeChat will be banned from US app stores from Sunday, unless President Donald Trump agrees to a last-minute deal.
The actions follow an Aug. 6 executive order in which President Trump argued that TikTok and WeChat collect data from American users that could be retrieved by the Chinese government. The administration has threatened fines of up to $1 million and up to 20 years in prison for violations of the order
In a series of moves designed to render WeChat essentially useless within the United States, the government will also ban American companies from processing transactions for WeChat or hosting its internet traffic
ByteDance has been in talks with Oracle Corp and others to create a new company, TikTok Global, that aims to address US concerns about the security of its users’ data. ByteDance still needs Trump’s approval to stave off a US ban.
TikTok has 100 million users in the US, while WeChat has 19 million daily active users, according to Reuters. The order doesn’t prevent companies from hosting WeChat and TikTok outside the US, not does it affect other Tencent games and apps.
“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,” a TikTok spokesperson explained to Engadget. “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.”
The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks and has called TikTok and WeChat “significant threats”.
WeChat is popular among Chinese students, Chinese immigrants 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 best way to make TikTok safe is you make it like a read-only type account where you’re the viewer of posts versus a participating player,” said Check Point researcher Mark Ostrowski. “But then you’re turning off the exact thing that’s making TikTok so popular.
After Mr. Trump’s August executive orders, Tencent hired Edward Royce, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and four other lobbyists from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, according to a disclosure filing.
With a market value of over $645 billion, Hong Kong-listed Tencent is one of the biggest companies in China and works closely with the government. Chairman, and CEO Pony Ma has been a member of the rubber-stamp National People’s Congress since 2013.