Following through on a threat he made Friday night, President Trump signed two executive orders on Thursday banning the Chinese owners of the popular social media apps TikTok and WeChat from conducting business in the United States. The bans take effect in 45 days.
As Beth reported over the weekend, the executive order against Tik Tok will likely force ByteDance, the Chinese parent company, to divest and sell its United States operations. As of now, Microsoft has been the leading contender vying for the acquisition of the app.
"TikTok, a video-sharing mobile application owned by the Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users," the president wrote in a letter to Congress about the orders. "This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage."
Earlier on Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to ban Tik Tok on devices issued by the government and prohibit federal employees from using the social media app. Along with espionage in the United States, Tik Tok has been accused of censoring content for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), content the CCP deems politically sensitive, such as the pro-democracy protests in Hong Hong.
In his letter to Congress, Trump similarly accused WeChat of collecting "vast swaths of information from its users" and giving the CCP "access to Americans' personal and proprietary information."
"To deal with this threat, the order prohibits, beginning 45 days after the date of this order, to the extent permitted under applicable law, any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd. (a.k.a. Zìjié Tiàodòng), Beijing, China, or its subsidiaries, in which any such company has any interest, as identified by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). The Secretary will identify the transactions subject to this prohibition 45 days after the date of the order."
Tencent Holdings Ltd, the owner of WeChat, was similarly given 45 days to cease business transactions in the United States.