President Donald Trump on Thursday signed executive orders to ban the short-form video app TikTok and WeChat from operating in the US in 45 days if it is not sold by its Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance.
The orders, which use similar language, do not say that a certain amount of cash from the sale needs to be transferred to the US Treasury Department, which the President Donald Trump has been demanding on for several days.
The order concerning TikTok bans after 45 days “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd.,” the Chinese company that owns the social media platform.
The decision turns up the pressure on deals over the popular short video app’s future through a potential sale. The dramatic back and forth started when the President said last Friday night that he would prohibit TikTok from operating in the United States using emergency economic powers or an executive order.
Microsoft said Sunday that it was pushing forward with talks to obtain the app following a discussion between CEO Satya Nadella and Trump. On Monday, Trump set September 15 as the time limit for TikTok to find a US buyer. Failure to do so, he said, it would result to him to close the app in the country. In an unusual announcement, Trump also said any deal would have to include a “substantial amount of money” coming to the US Treasury.
Thursday’s order claims that TikTok “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users,” such as location data and browsing and search histories, which “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”
Soon after issuing the order concerning TikTok, Trump provided a similar order for WeChat, an group chat app owned by Tencent, a Chinese based company.
For WeChat, which allows its users to send money to each other, the order says it will prohibit financial transactions with Tencent. The order states “any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings Ltd. (a.k.a. Téngxùn Kònggǔ Yǒuxiàn Gōngsī), Shenzhen, China, or any subsidiary of that entity, as identified by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) under section 1(c) of this order.”
National security concerns have long fueled lawmakers’ reservations surrounding the apps. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters last week at the White House that the US government was leading a national security review of TikTok and was set to make a policy recommendation to Trump.
Earlier to Trump’s threatened ban last Friday, people working on the matter within the Trump administration expected the President to sign an order to force ByteDance to sell the US operations of TikTok, according to a source familiar with the matter, in a move aimed at resolving policymakers’ concerns that the foreign-owned TikTok may be a national security risk.
The order also alleges that the platform censors or disseminates content in keeping with the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda, citing “when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.”
Many of TikTok’s fans have overreacted over the app’s unknown future. After Trump’s warning last Friday, TikTok users across the US began livestreaming and posting videos in tribute to what they were afraid of was the end of the app. Others were planning ways to get around a prohibit, including by attempting to deceive servers to make it look like they’re browsing from a different country where TikTok is allowed to operate.
And TikTok has said it remains dedicated to its large American user base. “TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it is a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection,” company spokesperson Josh Gartner said in a statement. “TikTok will be here for many years to come.”
President Donald Trump’s threat to close the platform also comes a month after a trick organized mainly through TikTok may have resulted to a sparsely-attended Trump campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the days leading up to the June 20 rally, a coordinated effort was underway on TikTok motivating people to register online for the free event and not show up.