Is TikTok Being Banned? U.S. to Restrict TikTok and WeChat App Downloads
By Sarah E. Needleman
TikTok and WeChat may soon no longer be available in the
Downloads of the popular Chinese-owned apps will be banned as of
Sunday night, the Trump administration said on Friday, citing
national security and data privacy concerns. For TikTok, a full ban
is expected to happen after Nov. 12, though discussions for a deal
that would incorporate data safeguards could enable U.S. users
continued access to the video-sharing app.
Video-sharing app TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance
Ltd. WeChat, a messaging and electronic-payment app, is owned by
Shenzhen-based Tencent Holdings Ltd.
The White House's decision comes after Oracle Corp. won the
bidding for TikTok's U.S. operations, beating out Microsoft Corp.,
according to people familiar with the high-profile deal to salvage
the social-media sensation. But on Thursday a new plan arose that
would give Oracle as well as Walmart Inc. together a significant
stake, people familiar with the matter said. Both U.S. and Chinese
authorities, though, would have to approve the terms of the
Here is more on what the latest developments mean for the future
of TikTok and WeChat in the U.S.:
If I have TikTok or WeChat on my phone, will it be usable in the
U.S. after Sunday night?
You will be able to use TikTok if it is on your phone already,
but you won't be able to perform any payment functions in the U.S.
on WeChat, according to the Commerce Department. U.S. authorities
also could force Apple Inc. and Google to remove TikTok and WeChat
from their mobile app stores, preventing new downloads and
restricting current users from receiving software updates. Over
time, that could diminish usability of the apps.
How will people be able to access TikTok?
Americans might have to become more like Chinese internet users,
some of whom use virtual private networks and set their locations
outside the country to get around China's national internet
firewall, which blocks numerous websites, including Google and
Facebook. Similar VPN workarounds could be an option for U.S.
But even if Apple and Google take TikTok off their marketplaces,
experts say users could still access TikTok and WeChat through
sideloaded apps, or ones that haven't gone through Google and
Apple's verification processes. This method, however, could
potentially expose users to security vulnerabilities and
What are Apple and Google planning?
Apple and Google owner Alphabet Inc. didn't respond to requests
Are there other ways the U.S. could ban TikTok?
Avery Gardiner, general counsel at the Center for Democracy
& Technology, said earlier this month Apple and Google could
fight a government ban by saying that it restricts access to
communication under the First Amendment. Such arguments have
prevailed in censorship cases involving book publishers and
newspapers, Ms. Gardiner said.
TikTok and a group representing WeChat users filed lawsuits in
August challenging President Trump's executive orders issued on
Aug. 6. In the filing, TikTok said it had taken vast measures to
protect the privacy and security of user data in the U.S. and
explained those efforts to the government in a security review. A
Tencent spokesperson said Friday that WeChat was designed to serve
international users outside of mainland China and has always
incorporated the highest standards of user privacy and data
Has anything like this happened before?
The executive orders against TikTok and WeChat bar people in the
U.S. or subject to U.S. jurisdiction from transactions on those two
platforms. The president used a similar strategy last year in an
executive order that effectively barred U.S. companies from buying
telecommunications network gear and services from Huawei
Technologies Co., the Chinese firm that makes phones, tablets and
5G equipment. As with TikTok and WeChat, the government cited
national-security concerns. Experts say the U.S. case against
Huawei was more easily understood because Huawei's transactions
involve physical hardware and other equipment.
The forced sale of TikTok's U.S. operations is unusual because
it appears to make it necessary for ByteDance to separate some
pieces of the app's business geographically, presenting an
unusually thorny technical challenge. For now, TikTokers may have
to keep dancing to save their favorite app. Vanessa Pappas, who
became the interim head of TikTok last month after CEO Kevin Mayer
abruptly resigned, told The Wall Street Journal she aims to keep
the platform open, inclusive and as a place for self-expression and
Are there other ways the U.S. could ban TikTok and WeChat?
Experts say the president's order could also thwart TikTok and
WeChat by preventing other companies from engaging with the app or
providing it with services, since the order targets transactions
with the company. Like other social-media platforms, TikTok and
WeChat use cloud-computing services and sell advertisements. If
TikTok and WeChat were to have to rely on non-American companies
for those services, it could have a substantial effect on the
usability, speed and security of the apps. By attempting to cut off
transactions between American companies and the platforms, the
order also threatens TikTok and WeChat's advertising revenue from
the U.S., experts say.
Sebastian Herrera contributed to this article
Write to Sarah E. Needleman at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 18, 2020 15:28 ET (19:28 GMT)
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