Trump signs executive order that could ban TikTok, WeChat in 45 days
President Trump has signed an executive order that stipulates a ban on U.S. business transactions with TikTok owner ByteDance beginning on September 20.
The order said the U.S. “must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security.”
The date is significant as it comes just after the September 15 deadline that Microsoft recently set for talks with ByteDance as the computer giant explores a potential acquisition of the U.S. operations of the China-based company. If a deal goes through, ByteDance would no longer have any business dealings in the U.S., allowing TikTok to continue operating there under its new owner.
Another order signed by Trump bars transactions with China-based Tencent, owner of the messaging platform WeChat as well as a major owner of several prominent video game developers, including a stake in Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite. Tencent also has stakes in the likes of Reddit, Spotify, and Universal Music, though the company confirmed to the LA Times late Thursday that the order only concerns transactions related to WeChat, with services linked to Tencent’s wider business unaffected.
Trump last week threatened to ban video-sharing app TikTok — which has seen more than a billion downloads globally and 175 million in the U.S. — over fears that user data could fall into the hands of the Chinese government, though ByteDance has always insisted this could never happen.
In the orders, Trump said steps are needed “to deal with the national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and services supply chain,” adding that if TikTok data was obtained by the Chinese government, it could potentially allow it to “track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.” It also said that TikTok “reportedly censors content” that the Chinese government deems politically sensitive, and said the app “may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party.”
The action comes amid increasingly strained ties between Washington and Beijing over a growing number of issues that include controversy over America’s ban on U.S. firms using equipment made by Chinese tech giant Huawei over spying fears.