U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order prohibiting transactions with ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, within 45 days. A similar order also applies to the Chinese chat service WeChat.
The possibility that Chinese authorities can access data from American citizens via TikTok and WeChat is the decisive factor in banning transactions with the companies. “This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information”, the executive order states. “The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security.”
President Trump bases these orders on the Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act. TikTok has previously been designated as a threat to national security.
The social media app is very popular these days. This week Trump gave the American tech giant Microsoft 45 days to negotiate a deal to acquire the American branch of TikTok.
The order to ban the popular app WeChat within 45 days seems to have come out of nowhere. However, the same doubts that have been expressed about TikTok also apply to WeChat and its parent company Tencent. According to Trump, WeChat collects ‘enormous amounts of information from its users.’
WeChat users can use the app to buy plane tickets, play games, listen to music and book a doctor’s appointment. In the United States, the popularity of WeChat is relatively low as the service is mainly used by Chinese expats to communicate with family and friends in China.
The attack on Tencent by the U.S. government may have further consequences. Tencent is one of the largest companies in China, with a market value of 686 billion dollars (579.8 billion euros). The company holds shares in several companies, such as Spotify, Warner Music and game developers.