Sept. 18 (UPI) — The Trump administration said Friday it will start banning U.S. downloads and business activities with Chinese social apps TikTok and WeChat beginning Sunday, to “protect the national security of the United States.”
For TikTok users in the United States, they will not be able to upgrade, improve or maintain existing versions of the popular video-sharing app. Those restrictions become more severe if no deal is reached with the White House by Nov. 12, when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the app will “for all practical purposes [be] shut down.”
Sunday’s ban shuts down all transferring of funds and transactions on WeChat and bars companies from hosting, delivering content or permit any Internet transit. No users in the United States will be allowed to download any new TikTok or WeChat app as of Sunday.
The Commerce Department announced the ban as the administration is weighing approval for an agreement by TikTok to sell a minority stake to U.S. tech company Oracle.
TikTok, a China-based short-form video application, has more than 100 million users in the United States.
“Today’s actions prove once again that President [Donald] Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a 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.”
Vanessa Pappas, the interim head of TikTok, called on social media companies to oppose the Trump administration.
“We agree that this type of ban would be bad for the industry,” Pappas tweeted. “We invite Facebook and Instagram to publicly join our challenge and support our litigation.
“This is a moment to put aside our competition and focus on core principles like freedom of expression and due process of law.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said the administration is violating the U.S. Constitution.
“This order issued today violates the First Amendment rights of people in the United States by restricting their ability to communicate and conduct important transactions on TikTok and WeChat,” the ACLU tweeted.
“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.”
For weeks, the administration has scrutinized TikTok and owner ByteDance over concerns that data from U.S. users would be accessible by the Chinese government. ByteDance has said those concerns are unfounded.
Trump initially lobbied for Microsoft to buy TikTok, and the U.S. software giant was involved in negotiations to buy the company. But ByteDance decided Monday to partner with Oracle.
The Trump administration hasn’t approved the deal and Trump has previously voiced dissatisfaction with ByteDance remaining a majority owner.
The Commerce Department said Trump has given TikTok until Nov. 12 to address the concerns.
The administration also warned similar social media companies against displaying the “illicit behavior” it says is being exhibited by TikTok and WeChat.