President Trump Goes Nuclear, Will Ban U.S. App Store Downloads Of TikTok And WeChat

tiktok grass
It looks as though the Trump administration is going nuclear on TikTok, and WeChat has been dragged into the mix as well. The U.S. Commerce Department has issued an order that goes into effect September 20th that will effectively ban anyone in the United States from downloading either app.

The order [PDF], which was issued this morning, states, “Pursuant to Executive Order 13942, any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd. (a.k.a. Zìjié Tiàodòng), Beijing, China, or its subsidiaries, including TikTok Inc., in which any such company has any interest, as identified by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) within 45 days from the date of Executive Order 13942, shall be prohibited to the extent permitted under applicable law. 

There has been a whirlwind of activity surrounding TikTok ever since President Trump determined that TikTok posed a national security threat to the United States and was improperly handling private user data. Since that time, Microsoft threw its hat into the ring to purchase TikTok’s U.S. operations in order to bring the app and user data management into “compliance” with the Trump administration’s guidance. However, Microsoft recently bowed out of the running, with Oracle taking the lead.

But this new development is definitely a bold move by the administration, which has taken a hardline stance against China. In fact, another Chinese app has been caught up in the fracas: WeChat. WeChat is a highly popular communications tool that dominates the Chinese market, but is also highly visible here in the United States. The Trump administration says that both TikTok and WeChat are “untrusted” and post “significant threats” to U.S. interests.

TikTok has roughly 100 million users within the United States, while WeChat only claims around 20 million. However, WeChat’s presence in China is positively massive, with over 1 billion active users. According to the administration, it is not seeking the removal of these apps that are already installed on Americans’ smartphones, but is taking aim at the “corporate level” instead.

Starting on the 20th, both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store will be forced to remove TikTok and WeChat from their platforms in the United States. However, they will still be permitted to offer the app on their platforms in other countries.

"The expectation is that people will find alternative ways to do these actions," said a senior Trump administration official to Reuters. "We expect the market to act and there will be more secure apps that will fill in these gaps that Americans can trust and that the United States government won't have to take similar actions against."

For its part, TikTok issued the following statement: “We’ve already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and US government oversight of US data security. We will continue to challenge the executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods.”