Time’s up for TikTok, if the Trump Administration is to be believed. On Friday, the White House made what appears to be an unprecedented move of banning China’s TikTok and WeChat apps from mobile app stores, starting Saturday. The move will likely escalate tensions with Beijing, as plans that seemed designed to smooth over the White House’s tensions with China have apparently fallen through.
“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,” U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “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.”
The app will no longer be available in app stores starting at midnight, according to the Washington Post. If you’ve already got it downloaded, you’ll no longer be able to install new updates or patches. The move seems designed to punish the apps for what the White House says amounts to a dangerous amount of data collection by foreign-owned companies. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been trying to work out a deal in which TikTok would outsource its data management to U.S. company Oracle, but the plan apparently fell short of the President’s stated concerns.
TikTok fired back at the decision. “In our proposal to the U.S. Administration, we’ve already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and US government oversight of US data security,” the statement from spokesperson Hilary McQuaide said.
The ACLU also signaled their disapproval, saying the White House may be infringing on Americans’ first amendment rights “by restricting their ability to communicate and conduct important transactions on the two social media platforms.”
“The order also harms the privacy and security of millions of existing TikTok and WeChat users in the United States by blocking software updates, which can fix vulnerabilities and make the apps more secure,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “In implementing President Trump’s abuse of emergency powers, Secretary Ross is undermining our rights and our security. To truly address privacy concerns raised by social media platforms, Congress should enact comprehensive surveillance reform and strong consumer data privacy legislation.”