The United States government on Friday ordered a ban on popular Chinese-owned mobile applications TikTok and WeChat from September 20, citing threats to national security, AFP reported.
“The Chinese Communist Party has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
Unidentified officials told Reuters that the ban could still be rescinded by President Donald Trump if he so wishes. For now, the two apps will no longer be available for download in the US.
The order does not prevent US companies from doing business with TikTok and WeChat outside the borders of the country. US companies like Walmart and Starbucks use WeChat’s embedded programmes to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China. The order will also not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the United States.
Trump has repeatedly alleged that TikTok poses a threat to his country’s national security because of Beijing’s influence. TikTok, on the other hand, has consistently denied the allegations and maintained that the company had “taken extraordinary measures” to protect the privacy of its users.
On August 6, Trump had issued executive orders banning transactions with the video app within 45 days if it did not sell off its assets. A week later, he issued another order and gave the company the 90-day ultimatum to close the deal. Trump had on September 10 refused to extend the September 15 deadline for Chinese company ByteDance to sell its popular video-sharing platform TikTok’s American assets. “It’ll either be closed up or they’ll sell it,” Trump had said. “There will be no extension of the TikTok deadline.”
The platform’s Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mayer had resigned on August 26, just two months after his appointment. Mayer’s resignation came after Trump claimed the video app could be used to spy on Americans and ordered a crackdown on its parent company. Two days before that, TikTok had filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the executive order to block the app from operating in the country.
On June 29, the Indian government banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese-linked apps, citing national security concerns. However, the move came just two weeks after a violent clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers at Galwan Valley in Ladakh, along the Line of Actual Control, which resulted in the death of 20 jawans.