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  • The US Commerce Department announced today that downloads of ByteDance's video sharing app TikTok and multi-purpose messaging and payment platform WeChat will be blocked in the US starting September 20, 2020.

    The US Commerce Department announced today that downloads of ByteDance's video sharing app TikTok and multi-purpose messaging and payment platform WeChat will be blocked in the US starting September 20, 2020. | Photo: EFE/EPA/Roman Pilipey

Published 18 September 2020
Opinion

The U.S. Commerce Department announced Friday it plans to restrict all downloads and updates of the Chinese applications TikTok and WeChat in the United States starting Sunday, September 20.  

According to an announcement by the Commerce Department, as of Sunday, any action intended to distribute or maintain the applications owned by ByteDance Ltd on online application stores such as the Apple Store or Google Play store will be prohibited.

Restrictions on internet hosting and transit services will similarly hit WeChat starting September 20, effectively rendering the app useless. However, these measures will not take effect for TikTok until November 12—nine days after the U.S. presidential elections.  

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The Commerce Department will also prohibit any money transfers or payment processing services through WeChat in U.S. territory in a move that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said will "guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party."

"At the President's direction, we have taken significant action to combat China's malicious collection of American citizens' personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations," the Commerce Department press release states. 

Hinging these and future restrictions on TikTok's potential sale to any one of the United States' multinational tech giants, the press release states: "Should the U.S. Government determine that WeChat's or TikTok's illicit behavior is being replicated by another app somehow outside the scope of these executive orders, the President has the authority to consider whether additional orders may be appropriate to address such activities. The President has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved. If they are, the prohibitions in this order may be lifted."
 
On August 6, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order against TikTok and its parent company Byte Dance Ltd, arguing that the video-sharing social network service could facilitate Chinese authorities' access to the U.S. users' personal data. The Chinese firm responded by suing the United States government for its politicized prohibition of the widely popular app, a move backed by the Chinese government in defense of the company's legitimate interests and assets in the United States. 

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