In executive orders signed Thursday night, Donald Trump threatened financial restrictions for the Chinese corporate owners of social media apps WeChat and TikTok, demanding that they sell the apps’ U.S. businesses to American companies within 45 days.
Citing “the national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and services supply chain” Trump described in a previous order, the new orders would bar U.S. citizens or businesses from conducting any financial transactions with WeChat and TikTok or their parent companies, Tencent Holdings and ByteDance. The order will take effect “45 days after the date of this order,” i.e. Sept. 20. Read the full text of the WeChat order here and the TikTok order here.
After the orders were announced, there was considerable confusion about how broadly they could be applied, particularly the order targeting WeChat and Tencent. That order bans “any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings Ltd… or any subsidiary of that entity, as identified by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary),” which would appear to apply to any of Tencent’s considerable business holdings.
Among other things, the company owns Los Angeles-based Riot Games, makers of the hugely popular online game “League of Legends.” It also owns 40% of North Carolina-based Epic Games, which makes “Fortnite,” and has a 5% ownership stake in California-based Activision-Blizzard, maker of “World of Warcraft” and “Call of Duty.”
In addition, Tencent’s film division, Tencent Pictures, has been heavily invested in several U.S. film productions, notably “Wonder Woman,” “Venom,” “Bumblebee,” “Warcraft,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and the upcoming Paramount tentpole “Top Gun: Maverick.”
White House representatives did not immediately respond to a request for clarification from TheWrap. But late Thursday night, the Los Angeles Times reported that a White House spokesperson said the order applies only to transactions involving WeChat.
Trump — joined by a bipartisan group of members of Congress — has long warned against data mining efforts by Chinese-owned apps like TikTok and WeChat.
Earlier this week, after initially threatening to ban TikTok outright (a power it’s unclear the president actually has), Trump said his administration would authorize the sale of the app’s U.S. business to a U.S. company. Currently Microsoft appears to be the front runner for such an acquisition.