President Donald Trump on Thursday, Aug. 6, issued two executive orders prohibiting commercial transactions with TikTok and WeChat. The order takes effect in 45 days. The measure allows Microsoft to continue negotiations to buy the social network before that date.
The orders issue broad restrictions against the Chinese social networks TikTok, WeChat, which could harm their ability to operate in the United States. The measures also extend to the two parent companies of the Chinese-owned social networking apps, ByteDance and Tencent Holdings respectively.
President Trump is prohibiting all transactions in the United States with the companies that own TikTok and WeChat. The measure increases pressure on ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to conclude negotiations to sell the platform to Microsoft, which has shown interest in buying it. This decision undoubtedly creates another new front in the confrontation between the White House and the Chinese Communist Party.
National security, foreign policy, and safeguarding the U.S. economy are the arguments on which the banning decrees are based. The orders were issued under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will be responsible for determining in detail which transactions will be affected by the ban.
Both executive orders said the United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok and WeChat to “protect the national security of the United States. They also said the applications automatically capture “large amounts of information about their users,” which is tantamount to “allowing the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and private information.
The president also noted in both executive orders that the applications allegedly censor content that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) considers politically sensitive. In addition, the applications can “be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party. TikTok, for example, reportedly censored the content of protests in Hong Kong and the treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China.”
According to President Trump’s decree, TikTok data, which has been downloaded 175 million times in the United States and more than a billion times worldwide, can potentially be used by China to detect the location of U.S. government employees and contractors, build up files on individuals for extortion, and conduct corporate espionage.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would ban the Chinese social networking giant TikTok from all government devices. Multiple branches of the military, as well as the TSA, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have already banned TikTok from their devices.
“We want to see unreliable Chinese applications removed from application stores in the United States. President Trump has mentioned imminent action on TikTok, and for good reason,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a press conference Wednesday, CNBC reported. “With parent companies based in China, applications like TikTok, WeChat, and others are major threats to U.S. citizens’ personal data, not to mention the CCP’s content censorship tools.”
President Trump has said he will give any U.S. company until Sept. 15 to buy TikTok or ban it. The Financial Times reported Thursday morning that Microsoft is seeking to buy all of TikTok’s global operations.
On Aug. 2, Microsoft wrote in an official statement, “Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020. During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States government, including with the President.”