Restrictions against TikTok and WeChat to begin this Sunday in U.S.

Photo (c) Wachiwit - Getty Images

Regulators say the move is important to protecting national security

Come Sunday, the mobile apps TikTok and WeChat will be restricted in response to President Trump’s Executive Orders signed in August. The reason the U.S. Department of Commerce gave was simple: to “safeguard the national security of the United States."

The national security concerns that the agency has are linked to its belief that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can use TikTok and WeChat as a way to imperil the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the U.S. 

“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” said U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. 

“At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”

Similar yet different

Ross’ department believes that while the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok may not be identical, they are cut from the same cloth. He alleges that:

  • Each app collects a massive expanse of data from users: network activity, location data, browsing histories, and search histories among them; and

  • Each app is a functioning participant in China’s “civil-military fusion” and is, because of that relationship, “subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP.”

Added together, Ross said that the one-two punch of the app combo creates “unacceptable risks” to the national security of the U.S.

What changes TikTok and WeChat users will face

Everything related to restricting the two apps’ use won’t happen all at once. There are two dates that WeChat and TikTok users should be aware of.

Effective Sunday, September 20, 2020, the Department of Commerce is prohibiting the following transactions:

  1. Any provision of service to distribute or maintain the WeChat or TikTok mobile applications, constituent code, or application updates through an online mobile application store in the U.S.;

  2. Any provision of services through the WeChat mobile application for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the U.S.

Effective Sunday, September 20, 2020, for WeChat; and effective Thursday, November 12, 2020, for TikTok, the following transactions are prohibited for TikTok:

  1. Any provision of internet hosting services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;

  2. Any provision of content delivery network services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;

  3. Any provision directly contracted or arranged internet transit or peering services enabling the function or optimization of the mobile application within the U.S.; and

  4. 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.

That may not be all, however. The Department of Commerce said that users can expect other prohibitive transactions relating to WeChat or TikTok if anything else the government deems crossing the line comes to light.

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