The US Department of Commerce will ban TikTok and WeChat downloads from September 20

The United States Department of Commerce announcement Friday that it will ban downloads of Chinese-owned social media apps WeChat and TikTok from Sunday.

With the announcement, the Commerce Department is enforcing the two executive orders President Donald Trump signed in early August, which address what he said were national security threats posed by the pair of Chinese apps. Trump’s orders have labeled TikTok and WeChat a “national emergency” for the supply chain of information and communications technology and services.

The August 14 order gave TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, 45 days to sell its US business. According to the order, any dealings with the owner of TikTok or its affiliates would be prohibited. The second order similarly prohibited any WeChat-related transactions by any person, or relating to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings.

With the entry into force of this ban, downloads of TikTok and WeChat apps will be blocked and the apps removed from the Apple and Google app stores. However, existing users will still be able to use the apps if they installed them before the App Store removals. In addition, updates to existing apps will be prohibited. The Department of Commerce also prohibits any payment transaction via WeChat in the United States.

“Although the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, they are similar,” Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a press release. “Each collects vast swathes of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories. Each is an active participant in China’s civil-military merger and is subject to to mandatory cooperation with the CCP’s intelligence services. This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security.”

Until recently, it looked like the TikTok ban would be averted thanks to potential deals between US companies Microsoft and Oracle. In early August, Microsoft announced it was in talks with ByteDance to take over TikTok’s US operations. Microsoft executives said they would complete talks no later than September 15.

But as the deadline approaches, ByteDance said it would not include TikTok’s algorithm as part of the sale, according to a South China Morning Post report. The Chinese company also told Microsoft that it would not be its new owner.

Then in staged Oracle. In a report last week, Oracle said:

Oracle confirms Secretary Mnuchin’s statement that this is part of the proposal submitted by ByteDance to the Treasury Department over the weekend in which Oracle will serve as a trusted technology provider. Oracle has 40 years of experience delivering secure, high-performance technology solutions.

It remains to be seen whether a deal with Oracle will be finalized before the September 20 ban is actually implemented.


Sam D. Gomez