TikTok and WeChat to be banned from U.S. app stores on Sunday

The popular apps TikTok and WeChat will be banned from app stores in the U.S. from Sunday, September 20, due to President Trump’s Executive Order issued in August.

This shouldn’t affect current users of these apps for now, as Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business that for TikTok users, the “only real change as of Sunday night” would be that they “won’t have access to improved apps, updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance.”

However, this is only a temporary state of affairs and a full ban forbidding users in the U.S. from accessing the app is still a possibility.

“The basic TikTok will stay intact until November 12,” Ross said to Fox Business. “If there’s not a deal by November 12 under the provisions of the old order, then TikTok would also be, for all practical purposes, shut down.”

Trump has been waging war against TikTok for the last several weeks, objecting on potential national security grounds about so much data about millions of users being accessible by a Chinese company that could be obliged to hand that data over to the Chinese government.

In August, Trump ordered TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, to sell the app to a U.S. company, though the exact deadline for the sale was somewhat unclear. But now, a statement from the U.S. Department of Commerce makes it clear that the app will be banned from this Sunday.

The upcoming ban applies to chat service WeChat as well as to TikTok, as detailed in the statement:

“As of September 20, 2020, the following transactions are prohibited:

  1. Any provision of service to distribute or maintain the WeChat or TikTok mobile applications, constituent code, or application updates through an online mobile application store in the U.S.;
  2. Any provision of services through the WeChat mobile application for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the U.S.

As of September 20, 2020, for WeChat and as of November 12, 2020, for TikTok, the following transactions are prohibited:

  1. Any provision of internet hosting services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;
  2. Any provision of content delivery network services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;
  3. Any provision directly contracted or arranged internet transit or peering services enabling the function or optimization of the mobile application within the U.S.;
  4. Any utilization of the mobile application’s constituent code, functions, or services in the functioning of software or services developed and/or accessible within the U.S.”

This means that the apps will no longer be available in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. Current users should be able to continue using the apps, at least until the November deadline — so if you’re in the U.S. and you want to use these apps in the future, you should make sure they are downloaded to your device today or tomorrow. However, U.S. users won’t be able to update the apps through the app stores, which could cause problems in the future.

This ban comes despite the setting up of a deal between TikTok and U.S. company Oracle this week which would grant Oracle oversight over the app and the way its data is used. This deal was apparently insufficient to mollify Trump’s concerns.

“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,” Ross said in the Department of Commerce 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.”

We have reached out to TikTok for comment on this matter and will update when we hear back.

Updated September 18: Added statements from Wilbur Ross.

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