Trump to block U.S. downloads of TikTok and WeChat starting Sunday

Americans will no longer be able to download TikTok and WeChat starting on Sunday when the Trump administration will have it banned from U.S. app stores. 

The Commerce Department issued an order Friday that will bar people in the United States from downloading the Chinese-owned video sharing app and messaging app after this weekend.

People who already have the apps on their phones will be able to keep using TikTok – but not able to download updates – while WeChat will effectively be shut down as of Sunday. 

TikTok, the popular video app, got a longer grace period. It won’t be completely shut down until November 12 – after the general election – as negotiations continue with American companies interested in purchasing it. Oracle and Walmart are both in talks.

An official told Reuters that TikTok U.S. users would not see ‘a major difference’ in the app’s performance until Nov 12. 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross discussed the changes users would see in an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Friday morning. 

‘WeChat is essentially a funds transfer and payment processing mechanism. For all practical purposes, it will be shut down in the U.S., but only in the U.S., as of midnight on Monday,’ he said.

‘So as to TikTok, the only real change as of Sunday night will be – won’t have access to improved apps, updated apps, upgraded apps, or maintenance. So if that were to continue over a long period of time there might be a gradual degradation of services. But the basic TikTok will stay intact until November 12th,’ Ross noted.

But he said that deadline could be lifted if there is a purchasing deal – otherwise the app will be banned after the election.

‘If there’s not a deal by November 12th under the provisions of the old order, then TikTok also would be, for all practical purposes shut down,’ Ross said.

TikTok said it will challenge the ‘unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process’ and will ‘deprive the American people’ of its platform.

‘We disagree with the decision from the Commerce Department,’ the company said in a statement after the decision was announced.

TikTok noted it has committed to ‘unprecedented levels’ of transparency, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and U.S. government oversight of US data security.

President Trump's administration to ban downloads of TikTok and WeChat, two Chinese owned-apps

President Trump's administration to ban downloads of TikTok and WeChat, two Chinese owned-apps

President Trump’s administration to ban downloads of TikTok and WeChat, two Chinese owned-apps

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said WeChat will be shut down after this weekend but TikTok can be used - but not updated - until November 12

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said WeChat will be shut down after this weekend but TikTok can be used - but not updated - until November 12

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said WeChat will be shut down after this weekend but TikTok can be used – but not updated – until November 12

ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, has been talks with Oracle Corp and others to create a new company, TikTok Global, that aims to address U.S. concerns about the security of its users’ data. 

The markets didn’t react much to the news of the ban. Both Oracle and Walmart’s shares dipped slightly but Wall Street has otherwise gone on with business as usual. 

President Donald Trump must approve any sale. 

The Commerce Department order will ‘deplatform’ the two apps in the United States and bar Apple Inc’s app store, Alphabet Inc’s Google Play and others from offering the apps on any platform ‘that can be reached from within the United States.’ 

‘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,’ Ross said in a statement. 

Trump said Wednesday he was not ready to sign off on a deal for Oracle to buy TikTok from its Chinese parent company, citing both national security concerns and wanting to ensure the U.S. government gets its cut.

‘It has to be 100 percent as far as national security is concerned. No, I’m not prepared to sign off on anything. I have to see the deal,’ Trump said. ‘They going to be reporting to me tomorrow morning and I’ll let you know.’ 

He also said he was surprised to learn that the U.S. cannot take a cut of the TikTok deal and he’s going to have the government look into that. 

‘Amazingly, I find that you’re not allowed to do that,’ he said at his press conference when asked about payments to the Treasury Department for the sale, an idea he had pushed. ‘There is no way of doing that from – there is no legal path to doing that.’

Trump was briefed on the matter by Treasury officials on Thursday morning. 

‘They are willing to make a big payment to the government and we are not allowed to take their money? When does this happen? How foolish can we be? We are looking into that right now. I said no, I want a big chunk of that money to go to the United States government because we made it possible,’ he complained.

‘The lawyers come back to me and say there is no way of doing that. You know why?’  he said. ‘Because nobody ever said we will approve the deal but we want a lot of money to go to the government. Because by approving the deal we are making the deal valuable. They had never heard of that before. Okay? Can you believe that?’

Trump said he also didn’t like that the U.S. purchasing company would have a minority stake in the Chinese venture. 

‘I don’t like that. That hasn’t been told to me yet. That has been reported but not told to me. It could be accurate reporting for a change. If that’s the case I’m not going be happy with that. Assuming ByteDance is China and I think it is,’ he said. 

Meanwhile, Oracle and Walmart could work together to take a significant stake in the company, The Wall Street Journal reported.

That partnership, if combined with existing American investors, could put majority ownership in U.S. hands, which would alleviate some of Trump’s concerns.

Walmart, which was working with Microsoft in an earlier bid to buy the popular app, said in a statement Sunday it ‘continues to have an interest in a TikTok investment and continues discussions with ByteDance leadership and other interested parties.’

Trump said Thursday he had spoken with both WalMart and Oracle about the matter. 

‘We’ll make a decision, but nothing much has changed. We’ll make a decision soon,’ he said. 

The fate of the ownership of TikTok remains in limbo with both Oracle and WalMart interested

The fate of the ownership of TikTok remains in limbo with both Oracle and WalMart interested

The fate of the ownership of TikTok remains in limbo with both Oracle and WalMart interested 

But Chinese authorities have said they would not allow ByteDance to sell the algorithms used by TikTok, which are believed to hold much of the value for the app. 

While a deal is being negotiated, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Thursday that ‘innovation is the most important quality of business management, and it is also what we must overcome obstacles to do in the future.’

‘Key core technology must be firmly kept in our own hands,’ he added, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

Friday’s order will not ban U.S. companies from doing businesses on WeChat outside the United States, which will be welcome news to U.S. firms like Walmart and Starbucks that use WeChat’s embedded ‘mini-app’ programs to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China.

‘WeChat is mainly used by American companies as a payment mechanism in China and elsewhere. That’s not being disturbed at all,’ Ross told Fox Business. 

The order will not bar transactions with WeChat-owner Tencent Holdings’ other businesses, including its online gaming operations and will not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the United States.

The bans are in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump on Aug. 6 that gave the Commerce Department 45 days to determine what transactions to block from the apps he deemed pose a national security threat. That deadline expires on Sunday.

Commerce Department officials said they were taking the extraordinary step because of the risks the apps’ data collection poses. China and the companies have denied U.S. user data is collected for spying.

The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge ‘untrusted’ Chinese apps from U.S. digital networks and has called TikTok and WeChat ‘significant threats.’

The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge 'untrusted' Chinese apps from U.S. digital networks and has called TikTok and WeChat 'significant threats'

The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge 'untrusted' Chinese apps from U.S. digital networks and has called TikTok and WeChat 'significant threats'

The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge ‘untrusted’ Chinese apps from U.S. digital networks and has called TikTok and WeChat ‘significant threats’

TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and WeChat has 19 million users in U.S.

TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and WeChat has 19 million users in U.S.

TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and WeChat has 19 million users in U.S.

TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and is especially popular among younger Americans.

WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, ex-pats 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.

Commerce is also barring additional technical transactions with WeChat starting Sunday that will significantly reduce the usability and functionality of the app in the United States.

The order bars data hosting within the United States for WeChat, content delivery services and networks that can increase functionality and internet transit or peering services.

‘What immediately is going to happen is users are going to experience a lag or lack of functionality,’ a senior Commerce official said of WeChat users. ‘It may still be usable but it is not going to be as functional as it was.’ There may be sporadic outages as well, the official said.

Commerce will bar the same set of technical transactions for TikTok, but that will not take effect until Nov. 12 to give the company additional time to see if ByteDance can reach a deal for its U.S. operations.  

Commerce will not penalize people who use TikTok or WeChat in the United States. The order does not bar data storage within the United States for WeChat or TikTok.

Some Americans may find workarounds. There is nothing that would bar an American from traveling to a foreign country and downloading either app, or potentially using a virtual private network and a desktop client, officials conceded.

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