US bans WeChat, TikTok from app stores, threatens shutdowns

US bans WeChat, TikTok from app stores, threatens shutdowns

Sunday, September 20, 2020

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The US Commerce Department said Friday it will ban Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat from US app stores starting today and will bar the apps from accessing essential Internet services in the US — a move that could effectively wreck the operation of both Chinese services for US users.

TikTok won't face the most drastic sanctions until after the November 3 election, but WeChat users could feel the effects as early as today. .

The order, which cited national security and data privacy concerns, follows weeks of dealmaking over the video-sharing service TikTok. President Donald Trump has pressured the app's Chinese owner to sell TikTok's US operations to a domestic company to satisfy US concerns over TikTok's data collection and related issues.

California tech giant Oracle recently struck a deal with TikTok along those lines, although details remain foggy and the administration is still reviewing it. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox Business Network said the Administration is still “negotiating and looking at the proposal”.

The new order puts pressure on TikTok's owner, ByteDance, to make further concessions, said James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Trump said this week that he does not like the idea of ByteDance keeping majority control of TikTok.

TikTok expressed “disappointment” over the move and said it would continue to challenge President Donald Trump's “unjust executive order”. The Commerce Department is enacting an order announced by President Donald Trump in August. TikTok sued to stop that ban.

WeChat owner Tencent said in an e-mailed statement that it will continue to discuss ways to address concerns with the Government and look for long-term solutions.

Google and Apple, the owners of the major mobile app stores, did not immediately reply to questions. Oracle also did not reply.

“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 US laws and regulations,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a prepared statement.

The action is the Trump Administration's latest attempt to counter the influence of China, a rising economic superpower. Since taking office in 2017, Trump has waged a trade war with China, blocked mergers involving Chinese companies and stifled the business of Chinese firms like Huawei, a maker of phones and telecom equipment.

China-backed hackers, meanwhile, have been blamed for data breaches of US federal databases and the credit agency Equifax, and the Chinese Government strictly limits what US tech companies can do in China.


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