The Brief: The United States Commerce Department will be banning TikTok and WeChat app downloads starting Sunday.
On Friday, the Trump administration announced that it will be restricting downloads of WeChat and TikTok starting on Sunday, September 20. A statement from Wilbur Ross of the Commerce Department announces that downloads of the WeChat and TikTok apps will be banned starting on Sunday and that WeChat will be even further restricted. This would apply to both Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store. TikTok responded to this announcement, saying that it disagreed with and was disappointed by this executive action.
The order requires that WeChat ends payments through its app and stop getting technical service from vendors, which could impact the app’s functions and effectiveness. TikTok app downloads will be banned starting on Sunday, but additional limitations aren’t set to go into effect until November 12, which is after the presidential election. If TikTok were to reach a deal with Oracle or another U.S. company for its sale or a partnership, it could avoid a more intensive future ban of the app.
This action is a follow-up from President Trump’s August 6th Executive Orders that would ban TikTok and WeChat if they were not sold by their Chinese-owned parent companies. President Trump and his administration have cited that TikTok poses a security risk due to its relationship with the Chinese government, but cybersecurity experts have noted that this threat is “currently largely hypothetical or indirect.”
TikTok currently has a web version of its feed that includes the For You Page, allowing users to log in to their accounts and interact with TikTok’s main features in their browser. The press release from the Commerce Department mostly addresses the mobile applications, but also prohibits “any utilization of the mobile application’s constituent code, functions, or services in the functioning of software or services developed and/or accessible within the U.S.” It’s not specified if the web version would fall under this prohibition, but the press release also states that the President may consider additional orders to address activities that don’t fall under these exact measures.
While TikTok’s fate in the United States remains up in the air, people are reacting on social media including Twitter and TikTok, speculating about the unknown, and potentially limited future of the app.