President Donald Trump has ordered a U.S. ban on dealings with the owners of the popular social media apps TikTok and WeChat.
The action came in the form of two executive orders issued on Thursday. The measures are set to take effect in 45 days.
The orders state that the Chinese-owned apps “threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
Trump issued the action under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The law gives the administration wide powers to bar U.S. companies or citizens from trading or completing financial dealings with identified parties.
Steven Weber is with the Berkeley Center for Long Term Cybersecurity. He told The Associated Press, “This is a pretty broad and pretty quick expansion of the technology Cold War between the U.S. and China.”
The exact transactions that will be covered by the orders are to be defined by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross by mid-September.
The action could result in the two apps being barred from the Apple and Google app stores, effectively making them unavailable for download in the United States. However, technology experts have noted that any attempt to ban Americans from using the apps would be nearly impossible to enforce.
China’s ByteDance owns TikTok. The video sharing app is hugely popular in the United States and many other countries, especially among young people. The company says it has 100 million users in the United States and hundreds of millions worldwide.
WeChat, owned by China’s Tencent Holdings, is a hugely popular messaging app that links to financial and other services. It has more than 1 billion users. Around the world, many people of Chinese descent use WeChat to contact friends and family and to carry out business in mainland China.
One of Trump’s orders stated that TikTok could be used for disinformation campaigns to help the Chinese Communist Party. The U.S. “must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,” the order said.
Earlier, Trump had threatened to “close down” TikTok in the U.S. unless Microsoft Corporation or another company bought it.
The other order said WeChat could easily capture large amounts of information from its users. Such data collection threatens to give China’s Communist Party “access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”
The Trump administration and U.S. lawmakers have repeatedly warned that TikTok could be misusing private user information. They have also expressed concerns about laws requiring Chinese companies to share data requested by the Chinese government.
TikTok’s parent ByteDance has denied the company is influenced by Chinese officials and says it does not provide any user data to the government.
TikTok and the Chinese government condemned the executive orders.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said ByteDance and Tencent obey all U.S. laws. “The U.S. is using national security as an excuse and using state power to oppress non-American businesses,” the spokesman said.
In a statement, TikTok expressed shock at the order and said it is a violation of U.S. law. The company said it tried unsuccessfully for nearly a year to reach a “constructive solution” with the U.S. administration. TikTok promised to seek “all remedies” available to make sure the company and its users “are treated fairly.”
A spokesman for Tencent told Reuters news agency the company was “reviewing the executive order to get a full understanding.”
The orders were issued one day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced an expansion to a U.S. program to prevent Chinese apps and telecommunication companies from accessing sensitive information on U.S. citizens and businesses.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Reuters and The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
app – n. a program for a smartphone or other device that performs a special function
transaction – n. an occurrence in which goods, services, or money are passed from one person or account to another
access – n. the right or opportunity to use or see something
proprietary – adj. owned or controlled by a company
excuse – n. a reason someone gives for why they did something wrong
remedy – n. something that helps solve a problem
review – v. to consider something in order to decide if changes should be made