Three officials told Reuters that the U.S. Department of Commerce plans to issue an order on Friday to ban Americans from downloading the Chinese-owned SMS app WeChat and video sharing app TikTok from September 20.
Officials say that President Donald Trump may still lift the ban on newly downloaded TikTok in the United States until it takes effect later on Sunday, as TikTok owner ByteDance races to reach an agreement on the fate of its US business.
ByteDance has negotiated with Oracle and other companies to create a new company, TikTok Global, which aims to address US concerns about the security of its user data. ByteDance still needs Trump’s approval to avoid the US ban.
The US Department of Commerce’s order will “cancel the platform” of these two applications in the United States and prohibit Apple’s App Store, Alphabet’s Google Play and other applications from providing “accessible within the United States” applications on any platform. The official told Reuters.
The officials declined to be named because the announcement has not yet been made public.
The order will not prohibit U.S. companies from doing business on WeChat outside the U.S. This is welcome news for U.S. companies such as Walmart and Starbucks, which use WeChat’s embedded “mini apps” to facilitate transactions and attract Chinese consumption By.
The order does not prohibit transactions with other businesses of WeChat owner Tencent (including its online game business), nor does it prohibit Apple, Google or other companies from providing TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the United States.
The ban is in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump on August 6, which gave the Department of Commerce 45 days to determine which transactions block applications that he believes constitute a national security threat. The deadline expires on Sunday.
Officials of the Ministry of Commerce said they are taking extraordinary measures due to the risks involved in application data collection. Both China and the two companies deny collecting data from US users for espionage.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement to Reuters: “We have taken major actions to combat China’s malicious collection of personal data from U.S. citizens, while promoting our national values, norms based on democratic rules, and active enforcement of the United States. Laws and regulations.”
Officials said the order is scheduled to be issued at 8:45 am Eastern Time (12:45 GMT).
The Trump administration has stepped up its efforts to remove “untrusted” Chinese apps from American digital networks and called TikTok and WeChat “significant threats.”
TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and is especially popular among young Americans.
Analysis firm Apptopia stated in early August that WeChat has an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States. It is very popular among Chinese students, expatriates and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.
WeChat is an all-in-one mobile application that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an important part of the daily lives of many Chinese people, with more than 1 billion users.
The Department of Commerce will not attempt to force people in the United States to delete or stop using these applications, but will not allow updates or new downloads. A business official said: “Our goal is a top company. We will not pursue individual users.”
Officials said that over time, the lack of updates will reduce the availability of the application.
A senior official said: “People expect that people will find other ways to take these actions.” “We expect the market will take action, and there will be more secure applications to fill the void that Americans can trust, and the U.S. government There will be no need to take similar actions.”
The Ministry of Commerce also prohibits other technical transactions with WeChat from Sunday, which will greatly reduce the usability and functionality of the app in the United States.
The order prohibits hosting of WeChat, content delivery services, and network data hosting within the United States, which can add functionality and Internet transmission or peer-to-peer services.
When talking about WeChat users, a senior business official said: “What will happen soon is that users will experience lag or lack of functionality.” “It may still be available, but it won’t work as before.” The official said , There may be sporadic power outages.
Commerce will ban TikTok from making the same technical transaction, but the transaction will not take effect until November 12, so that the company has more time to see if ByteDance can conclude a deal for its US business. The official said that TikTok US users will not see “significant differences” in the application’s performance until November 12.
The Department of Commerce will not punish people who use TikTok or WeChat in the United States.
The order does not prohibit WeChat or TikTok’s data storage in the United States.
Some Americans may find a solution. Officials admitted that there is nothing to stop Americans from going abroad or downloading applications, or possibly using virtual private networks and desktop clients.
© Thomson Reuters 2020
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