US bans WeChat use, TikTok downloads

US bans WeChat use, TikTok downloads

Pressure mounts on Chinese firms with order that takes effect on Sunday

WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday ordered a ban on downloads of the popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok and use of the messaging and payment platform WeChat, saying they threaten national security.

The move, to take effect on Sunday, comes amid rising US-China tensions and efforts by the Trump administration to engineer a sale of TikTok to American investors.

“The Chinese Communist Party has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy and the economy of the US,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

The order would ban WeChat, an app used by hundreds of millions of Chinese speakers, and TikTok from the online marketplaces operated by Apple and Google.

But while WeChat will effectively be shut down from Sunday in the US, existing TikTok users will be able to continue using the video-sharing app until Nov 12 — when it would also face a full ban on its US operations.

But the Commerce Department said that if national security concerns over TikTok were resolved before then, the order may be lifted.

TikTok’s brand of brief, quirky videos made on users’ mobile phones has become hugely popular, especially among young people.

The plan follows through on a threat by President Donald Trump, who has claimed Chinese technology platforms may be used for spying. It also ramps up the pressure on TikTok’s Chinese parent, ByteDance, to conclude a deal to sell all or part of TikTok to allay US security concerns.

A deal that appeared to be taking shape would allow the Silicon Valley software company Oracle to become the tech partner for TikTok, but some US lawmakers have objected to allowing ByteDance to keep a stake.

The ban on WeChat, owned by the Chinese giant Tencent, has the potential for disrupting the widely used social media and financial application.

US officials said in a recent court filing they would not target those using WeChat for ordinary personal communications.

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