US bans downloads of TikTok and WeChat as of this Sunday

The Trump Administration has announced to ban downloads of TikTok and WeChat from this Sunday to “safeguard the national security of the United States”.
September 19, 2020 | 11:17
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The Department said Friday that as of Sunday, any moves to distribute or maintain WeChat or TikTok on an app store will be prohibited, CNN reported.

While users who have already downloaded the apps may be able to continue using the software, the restrictions mean updated versions of the apps cannot be downloaded.

"The only real change as of Sunday night will be [TikTok users] won't have access to improved apps, updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday morning on Fox Business.

The restrictions targeting WeChat are more extensive. Beginning Sunday, it will be illegal to host or transfer internet traffic associated with WeChat, the Department said in a release. The same will be true for TikTok as of Nov. 12, it said. The Trump administration is currently weighing a proposal involving ByteDance, TikTok's Chinese parent, and Oracle, designed to resolve the administration's national security concerns related to TikTok; the deadline for a deal is Nov. 12.

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US bans downloads of TikTok and WeChat as of this Sunday Photo: CTV News

TikTok said in a statement that it disagreed with and was disappointed by the administration's announcement.

"Our community of 100 million US users love TikTok because it's a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection," the company said, "and we're committed to protecting their privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform."

Tencent, WeChat's owner, said it is reviewing the restrictions outlined by the Commerce Department.

"Following the initial executive order on August 6 we have engaged in extensive discussions with the US government, and have put forward a comprehensive proposal to address its concerns," Tencent said in a statement. "The restrictions announced today are unfortunate, but given our desire to provide ongoing services to our users in the US — for whom WeChat is an important communication tool — we will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the US ways to achieve a long-term solution."

Further restrictions could still be announced later, including against other apps if they are seen to be used as workarounds.

In earlier court filings, the US government suggested that the restrictions on TikTok and WeChat would be limited in scope and not aimed at harming consumers or TikTok's US employees.

TikTok employees will still be able to receive salaries and benefits and to do their day jobs without running afoul of the ban.

In a separate filing on Sept. 15, the US government warned that communication over WeChat might be "impaired" as a result of forthcoming policies, but that "users will not be targeted or subject to penalties."

"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," said Ross. "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."

TikTok Asks Facebook for Support Against Trump’s Ban

TikTok is asking social-media competitor Facebook Inc. for support in its legal challenge against President Donald Trump’s plan to ban the Chinese-owned video app in the U.S, according to Bloomberg.

Adam Mosseri, who runs Facebook’s Instagram photo-sharing app, tweeted Friday that a TikTok ban, which the Commerce Department announced earlier, “would be quite bad for Instagram, Facebook, and the internet more broadly.” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday that TikTok and Tencent’s WeChat will be banned from U.S. app stores starting Sunday.

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TikTok Asks Facebook for Support Against Trump’s Ban Photo: Business Insider

TikTok’s interim Chief Executive Officer Vanessa Pappas replied to Mosseri’s tweet, asking the company to join its legal fight against the White House. “We invite Facebook and Instagram to publicly join our challenge and support our litigation,” she wrote. “This is a moment to put aside our competition and focus on core principles like freedom of expression and due process of law.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said recently that he felt a TikTok ban would set a “bad long-term precedent” for the tech industry. Facebook is banned in China, and Zuckerberg has said he fears a TikTok ban by the U.S. could open the door for other countries to prohibit Facebook’s apps or services as well.

But Zuckerberg has also called on the U.S. government to take a stronger stance against China, warning that breaking up U.S. tech companies like Facebook might pave the way for Chinese rivals to take their place. At a speech at Georgetown University last fall, Zuckerberg alluded to TikTok, which is owned by China-based ByteDance Ltd., and criticized the app over accusations that it censored content from the Hong Kong protests.

“Until recently, the internet in almost every country outside China has been defined by American platforms with strong free expression values,” Zuckerberg said at the time. “There’s no guarantee these values will win out.”

US government eyes Epic, Riot after TikTok, WeChat ban

The US government is probing the security protocols of Unreal Engine and Fortnite maker Epic Games, plus League of Legends creator Riot Games, EuroGamer reported.

Letters have been sent by the US Treasury Department to various companies linked with Chinese conglomerate Tencent, a new Bloomberg report states, which asks them to hand over data.

Tencent owns Riot outright and holds a 40 percent stake in Epic.

The worry for Epic, Riot, and others here is the US government pushing for the sale of Chinese interests in other US companies - though we're a little way away from that just yet.

Tencent owns a stake in dozens of video game companies, including chunks of Supercell, Marvelous, Bluehole, Netmarble, and Frontier, as well as five percent each of Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, and Paradox.

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