[Update: TikTok’s statement] Trump signs executive order to ban U.S. “transactions” with TikTok and WeChat
US President Donald Trump has signed a pair of executive orders that ban any US transactions with the Chinese companies that own TikTok and WeChat, citing national security risks. The executive orders come just weeks after the Indian government issued a ban on over 100 Chinese apps due to similar reasons. According to a recent report from The Associated Press, the executive orders will take effect in 45 days, and they call on the Commerce Secretary to define the banned dealings in that time.
Once the ban goes into effect, it will bar “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd” and Tencent Holdings Ltd. For the unaware, ByteDance Ltd and Tencent Holdings Ltd are the parent companies of TikTok and WeChat, respectively. While the executive orders aren’t clear about the extent of the ban, experts suggest that they intend to bar the Google Play Store and Apple App Store from hosting these apps and thereby remove the apps from distribution in the US.
The executive orders allege that these apps pose a threat to the data of American users and could give “the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the location of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of persona information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”
It’s worth noting that WeChat’s parent company, Tencent Holdings Ltd, also owns or has a stake in several major American video game companies, like Riot Games, the studio behind League of Legends, Clash of Clans publisher Supercell, Epic Games, and more. The company also develops and distributes popular mobile games like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile. Because the executive order calls for a ban on any US transactions with Tencent Holdings Ltd, it was previously speculated that the ban could have a significant impact on all of Tencent’s properties. However, a White House official has since clarified that the executive order concerning WeChat only bans transactions related to the messenger and doesn’t involve other Tencent holdings.
Update: TikTok releases statement on the Executive Order
“TikTok is a community full of creativity and passion, a home that brings joy to families and meaningful careers to creators. And we are building this platform for the long term. TikTok will be here for many years to come.
We are shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process. For nearly a year, we have sought to engage with the US government in good faith to provide a constructive solution to the concerns that have been expressed. What we encountered instead was that the Administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.
We made clear our intentions to work with the appropriate officials to devise a solution to benefit our users, creators, partners, employees, and the broader community in the United States. There has been, and continues to be, no due process or adherence to the law. The text of the decision makes it plain that there has been a reliance on unnamed “reports” with no citations, fears that the app “may be” used for misinformation campaigns with no substantiation of such fears, and concerns about the collection of data that is industry standard for thousands of mobile apps around the world. We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request. In fact, we make our moderation guidelines and algorithm source code available in our Transparency Center, which is a level of accountability no peer company has committed to. We even expressed our willingness to pursue a full sale of the US business to an American company.
This Executive Order risks undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law, which has served as a magnet for investment and spurred decades of American economic growth. And it sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets. We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the Administration, then by the US courts.
We want the 100 million Americans who love our platform because it is your home for expression, entertainment, and connection to know: TikTok has never, and will never, waver in our commitment to you. We prioritize your safety, security, and the trust of our community – always. As TikTok users, creators, partners, and family, you have the right to express your opinions to your elected representatives, including the White House. You have the right to be heard.”
If our understanding is correct, TikTok intends to utilize the legal remedies available to the company against the order.