WASHINGTON – President Trump issued executive orders Thursday evening prohibiting Americans from transacting with the owners of popular mobile apps TikTok and WeChat.
The orders say that the ban on the Chinese-owned apps will take effect in 45 days.
“To protect our Nation, I took action to address the threat posed by one mobile application, TikTok,” Trump stated in the order. “Further action is needed to address a similar threat posed by another mobile application, WeChat.”
Trump stated in the order that ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, must sell the the app within the 45-day period.
Trump had threatened a deadline of Sept. 15 to “close down” TikTok unless Microsoft or “somebody else” bought it. TikTok, Microsoft, and WeChat owner Tencent had no immediate replies to queries.
The order claims that TikTok “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories. 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.”
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a big expansion of U.S. government curbs on Chinese technology, saying that it wants to see “untrusted Chinese apps” pulled from the Google and Apple app stores.
Outside experts called Pompeo’s proposal vague and possibly illegal.
Pompeo called out popular video app TikTok and the messaging app WeChat, which people in the U.S. use to communicate with others in the U.S. and China, as “significant threats to the personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for CCP content censorship.” CCP refers to the Chinese Communist Party.
The U.S. government has already been cracking down on Chinese technology companies. For instance, it has long singled out telecom equipment provider Huawei, encouraging allies not to use its equipment in their high-speed 5G wireless networks and banning U.S. telecom companies from using government funds for equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese telecom equipment provider.
Citing national security concerns, it has also barred Google from providing its Android apps such as Google Maps for Huawei phones. The Federal Communications Commission is considering barring operations of Chinese telecom companies China Telecom and China Unicom, which provide services in the U.S., due to national-security concerns.
The legal authority for the administration to take action against apps and app stores is unclear, Triolo write in a research note. The State Department did not immediately a question seeking information about the legal authority the administration could use to justify such measures.
The initiative is meant to force countries and companies to choose sides between the U.S. and China, Triolo said. He expects many companies and governments to resist.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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