As the U.S. continues to battle with the pandemic, there are also other concerns that is taking up the time of President Donald Trump. One of those has been getting rid of Chinese-owned social networks due to “security concerns”. He seems pretty serious about it and has now signed an Executive Order that would ban TikTok and WeChat in the country in 45 days. There’s a slight silver lining as there will be no banning if the Chinese companies that own them will sell the apps.
According to a report on CNN, the Bytedance-owned TikTok and the Tencent-owned WeChat will no longer be allowed to have any transaction with any person, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. So basically, in 45 days, if nothing happens drastically, those in the U.S. will no longer be able to use both apps if they’re in the country. If you didn’t know it yet, TikTok is the viral app that has millions of users globally while WeChat, while not as popular, is used mostly to transfer money between users.
But there’s a caveat to the Executive Order. The banning of apps will not happen if the owners manage to sell their U.S. business to U.S.-based companies of course. And while the wording of the order did not says so, Trump mentioned that any deal would have to bring in a “substantial amount of money” to the U.S. Treasury. Microsoft already announced that they’re in talks to acquire TikTok but there’s no news yet on potential buyers for WeChat.
There has long been concerns over these two apps that they are a national security threat due to their supposed connection to the Chinese government. In particular, the EO mentions TikTok censors or discriminates content that is in keeping with the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda. Bytedance says this decision sets dangerous precedent and they will be pursuing all possible remedies to this, including legal action.
Tencent meanwhile says they are reviewing the Executive Order to understand the decision. There hasn’t been any talk about a U.S. company interested in buying WeChat so far, most probably since it’s not as popular in the U.S. as compared to TikTok. We’ll be following this story closely over the next 45 days.