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US Bans Chinese Apps WeChat, TikTok

Icons for the smartphone apps TikTok and WeChat are seen on a smartphone screen in Beijing, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.
Icons for the smartphone apps TikTok and WeChat are seen on a smartphone screen in Beijing, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.
US Bans Chinese Apps WeChat, TikTok
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The United States will ban downloads of the Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat and video-sharing app TikTok starting this Sunday.

The U.S. order affects users of WeChat immediately. However, current TikTok users will see little change on September 20. President Trump and his administration will let some technical transactions for TikTok continue until November 12.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement that the U.S. move was taken “to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data.” He added, “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.”

Trump has been pushing for a sale of TikTok to a U.S.-based company. The later date appears to give the app’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, more time to reach a deal for its U.S. operations.

ByteDance has been in contact with Oracle Corporation and other American companies about TikTok.

Like most social networks, TikTok collects data of its users and where they are in the United States to target advertisements. Similar concerns have also been raised about the U.S.-based networks Facebook and Twitter.

TikTok says it does not store U.S. user data in China and that it would not give user data to the Chinese government. But experts say the government can get any information it wants from companies there, creating a security risk.

The ban is the Trump administration’s latest attempt to limit Chinese influence.

Since taking office in 2017, Trump has started a trade war with China and banned products from Huawei, a Chinese maker of communications equipment. The Chinese government limits what American technology businesses can do in China. China-based agents have been blamed for stealing information from U.S. government computer databases and the credit agency Equifax.

Effects of the ban

The Commerce Department order will remove WeChat and TikTok from U.S. app stores, such as Apple’s app store and Alphabet’s Google Play. But it does not affect the use of these apps in other countries.

TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and is popular among younger Americans.

WeChat has more than 1 billion users and about 19 million daily active users in the U.S. It is especially popular among Chinese students and Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.

The Commerce Department will not force people in the U.S. to remove the apps or stop using them. But users cannot update the two apps and, after some time, the apps will not work as expected.

Speaking about WeChat, a Commerce official told Reuters news agency, “It may still be usable, but it is not going to be as functional as it was.” The official added that TikTok’s U.S. users would not see “a major difference” in the app’s performance until November 12.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English with information from Reuters and the Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

download - v. to move or copy a file or program from a computer system to another or device

app - n. a computer program that performs a special function (short for application)

transaction - n. the act or process of passing money or information... from one to another

prohibition - n. a law or order that stops something from being used or done

update - v. to change something by including the latest information or function

functional - adj. working properly