President Donald Trump issued executive orders to ban TikTok and WeChat in 45 days, citing national security fears. TikTok swiftly responded by threatening to take legal action.
The orders issued on Thursday against each app use similar language, saying that the U.S. would ban the social networking apps from operating if they are not sold by their parent companies, which both have roots in China.
The music app TikTok is owned by ByteDance. The communications app WeChat is owned by Tencent.
The order regarding TikTok claims the app “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users,” which “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.” It goes on to say that TikTok may have the potential to track federal employees and conduct corporate espionage.
The internet giant WeChat, on the other hand, is said to capture “personal and proprietary information of Chinese nationals visiting the United States, thereby allowing the Chinese Communist Party a mechanism for keeping tabs on Chinese citizens who may be enjoying the benefits of a free society for the first time in their lives,” the order said.
A senior administration official told ETI the orders block all transactions related to the owners of TikTok and WeChat or subsidiaries. Transactions will face sanctions as defined by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
WeChat’s parent company has substantial investments in the U.S. Tencent owns stakes in North Carolina-based Epic Games, which operates Fortnite, League of Legends maker Riot Games, and other gaming companies including Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft.
ETI reached out to WeChat for comment on the executive order.
On Friday, TikTok responded to the executive order with a public post saying that it is “shocked” by the news, though Trump has threatened to ban the app for weeks.
“For nearly a year, we have sought to engage with the US government in good faith to provide a constructive solution to the concerns that have been expressed,” TikTok said. “What we encountered instead was that the Administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.”
TikTok said there has been no due process and claims the government’s concerns aren’t substantiated since it doesn’t share user data with the Chinese government.
“We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the Administration, then by the US courts,” TikTok said.
TikTok rose to become a household name over the past year, and now it’s a cultural phenomenon boasting 100 million users in the U.S. WeChat has been downloaded 19 million times in the U.S., according to Reuters.
TikTok can escape being blocked if it’s bought by a company in the U.S., Trump has said.
Microsoft recently said that it is having discussions about acquiring the ByteDance-owned app. TikTok said it is open to selling the U.S. arm of its business to an American company. The President set September 15, 2020 as the deadline for TikTok to find a new owner.
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