Trump Bans Dealings With TikTok Owners 08/07 06:23
President Donald Trump has ordered a sweeping but vague ban on dealings with
the Chinese owners of social media apps TikTok and WeChat on security grounds,
a move China's government criticized as "political manipulation."
NEW YORK (AP) -- President Donald Trump has ordered a sweeping but vague ban
on dealings with the Chinese owners of social media apps TikTok and WeChat on
security grounds, a move China's government criticized as "political
The twin executive orders issued Thursday --- one for each app --- add to
growing U.S.-Chinese conflict over technology and security. They take effect in
45 days and could bar the popular apps from the Apple and Google app stores,
effectively removing them from U.S. distribution.
China's foreign ministry expressed opposition but gave no indication whether
Beijing might retaliate.
Earlier, Trump threatened a deadline of Sept. 15 to "close down" TikTok in
the United States unless Microsoft Corp. or another company acquires it.
TikTok, owned by Beijing-headquartered ByteDance Ltd., is popular for its
short, catchy videos. The company says it has 100 million users in the United
States and hundreds of millions worldwide.
The Trump administration has expressed concern Chinese social media services
could provide American users' personal information to Chinese authorities,
though it has given no evidence TikTok did that.
Instead, officials point to the Communist Party's ability to compel
cooperation from Chinese companies. U.S. regulators cited similar security
concerns last year when the Chinese owner of Grindr was ordered to sell the
In a statement, TikTok expressed shock at the order and complained it
violates U.S. law. The company said it doesn't store American user data in
China and never has given it to Beijing or censored content at the government's
TikTok said it spent nearly a year trying to reach a "constructive solution"
but the Trump administration "paid no attention to facts" and tried improperly
to insert itself into business negotiations. TikTok said it would "pursue all
remedies" available to ensure the company and its users are "are treated
WeChat's owner, Tencent, the most valuable Asian technology company, and
Microsoft declined to comment.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced an expansion of the
U.S. crackdown on Chinese technology to include barring Chinese apps from U.S.
app stores, citing alleged security threats and calling out TikTok and WeChat
The Chinese foreign ministry accused Washington of "political manipulation"
and said the moves will hurt American companies and consumers.
"The United States is using national security as an excuse, frequently
abuses national power and unreasonably suppresses companies of other
countries," said a ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin. "This is an outright
hegemonic act. China is firmly opposed to it."
Wang, who didn't mention TikTok or any other company by name, called on the
Trump administration to "correct its wrongdoing" but gave no indication how
Beijing might respond.
Trump's orders say the Chinese-owned apps "threaten the national security,
foreign policy, and economy of the United States." They cite the International
Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act and call on the
Commerce secretary to define the banned dealings by Sept. 15.
WeChat, known in Chinese as Weixin, is a hugely popular messaging app that
links to finance and other services. It has more than 1 billion users. Around
the world, many people of Chinese descent use WeChat to stay in touch with
friends and family and to conduct business in mainland China.
Within China, WeChat is censored and expected to adhere to content
restrictions set by authorities. The Citizen Lab internet watchdog group in
Toronto says WeChat monitors files and images shared abroad to aid its
censorship in China.
Tencent Holdings Ltd. also owns parts or all of major game companies like
Epic Games, publisher of Fortnite, a major video game hit, and Riot Games,
which is behind League of Legends.
The Trump administration already was embroiled in a tariff war with Beijing
over its technology ambitions. Washington has blocked acquisitions of some U.S.
assets by Chinese buyers and has cut off most access to American components and
other technology for Huawei Technologies Ltd., a maker of smartphones and
network equipment that is China's first global tech brand.
China-backed hackers have been blamed for breaches of U.S. federal databases
and the credit agency Equifax.
In China, the Communist Party limits what foreign tech companies can do and
blocks access to the Google search engine, Facebook, Twitter and other social
media, along with thousands of websites operated by news organizations and
human rights, pro-democracy and other activist groups.
The Communist Party has used the entirely state-controlled press to
encourage public anger at Trump's actions.
"I don't want to use American products any more," said Sun Fanyu, an
insurance salesperson in Beijing. "I will support domestic substitute products."
Leading mobile security experts say TikTok is no more intrusive in its
harvesting of user data and monitoring of user activity than U.S. apps owned by
Facebook and Google.
"The U.S. thinking is that anything that is Chinese is suspect," said Andy
Mok, a senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in
Beijing. "They're being targeted not because of what they've done, but who they
The order doesn't seem to ban Americans from using TikTok, which would be
nearly impossible to enforce, said Kirsten Martin, a professor of technology
ethics at the University of Notre Dame.
"This is a pretty broad and pretty quick expansion of the technology Cold
War between the U.S. and China," said Steven Weber, faculty director for the
Berkeley Center for Long Term Cybersecurity.