Trump to Ban New Downloads of TikTok, WeChat in the US on Sunday

Commerce Department makes most aggressive move yet against popular Chinese-owned social apps

Last Updated: September 18, 2020 @ 8:10 AM

Business transactions with TikTok and WeChat will be blocked in the U.S. on Sunday as President Donald Trump’s August executive order goes into effect, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Friday.

The Department of Commerce announced “prohibitions on transactions” relating to the two popular Chinese-owned apps, which will require Apple, Google and other mobile app stores to remove them. No new downloads or updates of the apps will be allowed. Using WeChat to transfer funds or process payments will also be prohibited starting Sunday.

“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” said U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a Friday statement.

“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 U.S. laws and regulations.”

Ross appeared on Fox News Friday to further explain the changes:

“As to TikTok, it’s just upgrades, maintenance things like that, that would be shut down at this stage,” Ross said. The real shutdown would come after Nov. 12 in the event that there is not another transaction. So it’s very different how the way the two are being handled.”

A representative for TikTok told TheWrap, “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. 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.

There is opposition to the move, not only from the leadership of the company and users of the wildly popular app, but the ACLU.

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project said in a statement Friday, “This order violates the First Amendment rights of people in the United States by restricting their ability to communicate and conduct important transactions on the two social media platforms. The order also harms the privacy and security of millions of existing TikTok and WeChat users in the United States by blocking software updates, which can fix vulnerabilities and make the apps more secure. In implementing President Trump’s abuse of emergency powers, Secretary Ross is undermining our rights and our security. To truly address privacy concerns raised by social media platforms, Congress should enact comprehensive surveillance reform and strong consumer data privacy legislation.”

The government was expected to make a decision on Oracle’s bid to oversee the popular social media app by the end of this week, but so far the status of the proposed deal remains unclear.

Oracle, the technology giant led by Larry Ellison, took the lead position to acquire TikTok for a proposed deal of $20 billion in cash and stock at the end of August, TheWrap has learned.

A representative for Oracle did not immediately return a request for comment.