Sep 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

New downloads of TikTok, WeChat to be blocked in U.S. on Sunday

Illustration of a finger about to delete the TikTok app
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Commerce Department issued Friday an order blocking new downloads of WeChat and TikTok in the U.S. as of Sept. 20.

The state of play: President Trump has been in a standoff with TikTok, threatening to ban the app if its Chinese owner, ByteDance, does not relinquish control to a U.S. company. A deal is in the works with the American tech company Oracle, but would need to go through before Sunday to prevent TikTok from being ousted from app stores.

  • WeChat is another Chinese-owned messenger app that's risen data privacy concerns stateside.
  • The order will not block companies from doing business with WeChat's owner, Tencent Holdings.
  • Apple and Google will still be allowed to offer the apps outside of the U.S.

Worth noting: The Commerce Department's order would allow TikTok to continue operating through at least Nov. 12 for those who already have it downloaded.

  • But, by blocking it from app stores, it would likely prevent any updates or security patches to the app after this weekend.

Between the lines, via Axios' Dan Primack: TikTok already has filed a lawsuit to block Trump's executive order banning the app, and could ask for an emergency injunction were the president not to accept the proposed transaction with Oracle and Walmart.

What they're saying: "While the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, they are similar. Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories," Commerce's order reads.

  • "Each is an active participant in China’s civil-military fusion and is subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP.  This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security."

The bottom line, via Axios' Scott Rosenberg: The move adds a new threat to the final stage of negotiations between ByteDance, Oracle, the U.S. and China. It's either a sign that the Trump administration intends to block the deal, or a last effort to squeeze more concessions from the Chinese company.

Go deeper: How the Oracle-TikTok deal would work

Go deeper