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Trump bans TikTok and WeChat from US app store

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
HAIKOU, HAINAN, CHINA - 2020/08/23: In this photo illustration, a TikTok logo seen displayed on a smartphone with a computer in the background. ByteDance, parent company of popular video-sharing app TikTok on Sunday confirmed it would be filing a lawsuit on Monday local time against the Trump administration over the executive order signed by President Donald Trump banning its service in the United States. (Photo Illustration by Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A TikTok logo seen displayed on a smartphone with a computer in the background. Photo: Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

US President Donald Trump’s administration has announced plans to officially block new downloads of Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat in the US from Sunday, following through on threats to ban the popular apps on national security grounds.

The US Department of Commerce said in a statement on Friday that the apps would be banned from app stores from Sunday. Internet service companies will be banned from working with both companies and financial transactions using WeChat in the US will be blocked.

“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,” US 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 US laws and regulations.”

Watch: US banning use of TikTok and WeChat

READ MORE: Bytedance’s TikTok proposal isn’t just up to Trump

TikTok and WeChat both collect data on things like where users are and mobile browsing history. The Commerce Department said it was concerned this information would be shared with the Chinese government, given the close links between the state and industry in China.

TikTok said in a statement it was “disappointed” with the government’s action and said it had “already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do”.

“We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods,” the company said.

Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s interim US chief executive, on Twitter urged 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,” she said.

At the start August, Trump threatened to block TikTok in the US within 45 days unless it hived off its American operations. That deadline lapsed this week.

Trump’s ultimatum sparked frantic deal talks in recent weeks. TikTok’s parent company ByteDance spoke to various US suitors, including Microsoft (MSFT). Enterprise software Oracle (ORCL) said this week it had won the race but said it would “partner” with TikTok, rather than buy it out-right. The deal still requires approval in both the US and China, and it is unclear whether it will satisfy the terms set out by Trump.

ByteDance launched video sharing app TikTok in September 2016 and has already amassed 300 million active users outside China and 1.4 billion total installs to date. TikTok has been downloaded 175 million times in the US alone. The app’s success has turned ByteDance into the world’s most valuable startup, worth $78bn (£61bn).