President Donald Trump’s threats to ban TikTok are coming to pass.
Citing national security concerns, Trump issued two executive orders Thursday (Aug. 6) blocking any transactions with the Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat by U.S. citizens. The move further escalates tensions between the U.S. and China over politics, trade and technology.
The TikTok ban could take effect in 45 days, putting a deadline on Microsoft’s potential acquisition of ByteDance’s TikTok U.S operations. The tech giant said on Sunday that it hopes to complete talks by Sept. 15.
It’s still not completely clear how the administration defines “transactions,” but the executive order against TikTok will further inflame panic on the part of the more than 100 million American TikTok users over the future of the popular video app.
Meanwhile, the executive order against WeChat and its parent company, Tencent, also induced uncertainty in the tech, gaming and entertainment industries.
Tencent has stakes in Snapchat, Spotify and Warner Music; owns Riots Games (League of Legends); and is part owner of Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite.
However, an L.A. Times reporter tweeted that the White House clarified the order only affects WeChat.
In response to Trump’s move, TikTok said in a statement, “We are shocked by the recent executive order, which was issued without any due process. For nearly a year, we have sought to engage with the U.S. government in good faith to provide a constructive solution to the concerns that have been expressed.”
The company is likely to challenge the executive order in court.
Here’s what you need to know about Trump’s TikTok and WeChat bans.
Why is Trump banning TikTok and WeChat?
Trump first introduced the idea of a TikTok ban last week, when he indicated he would use his emergency powers or an executive order against the ByteDance-owned app.
The president and his administration have long stoked tensions with China, over trade and political policies. And in the midst of campaigning for reelection, while down in polls against former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump may be using this particular battle to prove he’s tough on China.
The Thursday executive orders state that TikTok and WeChat, capture “vast swaths of information from its users,” including location data and Internet search history, that the company could possibly share with the Chinese government against American interests.
The TikTok order also says the app “may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, Trump himself has repeatedly spread misinformation about the coronavirus on social platforms, to the point that Twitter has added fact-checking labels to his tweets.
But TikTok has faced security and privacy issues before. Apple’s iOS 14 identified TikTok as one of the several apps snooping on user’s iPhone clipboards. And Wells Fargo banned TikTok from company devices.
Is TikTok shutting down?
When Trump’s orders go into effect, it could mean that the TikTok app is removed from the Apple and Google Play stores and that app updates are no longer available to American users. Additionally, American companies would likely be barred from advertising on TikTok.
After the president’s initial musings on a ban last week, TikTok users began posting tribute videos in case the app was shut down, strategizing ways to continue using it via VPN and discussing alternative video sharing platforms.
ByteDance is vowing to challenge the executive order against TikTok in court.
Will Trump’s ban affect games like Fortnite?
In the order regarding WeChat, the administration banned financial transactions with its parent company, Tencent. What that means isn’t totally clear.
Tencent has a stake in numerous entertainment, gaming and tech companies including Snap, Tesla and Reddit. Of particular concern for many was that it owns 100 percent of Riot Games (League of Legends), 40 percent of Epic Games (Fortnite) and 5 percent of Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty). Tencent also has a hand in producing movies like Wonder Woman, Top Gun: Maverick and Venom.
LA Times reporter Sam Dean tweeted that a White House source clarified that the executive order only affects WeChat, so at least millions of League of Legends and Fortnite players can rest easy (for now).
Video game companies owned by Tencent will NOT be affected by this executive order!White House official confirmed to the LA Times that the EO only blocks transactions related to WeChatSo Riot Games (League of Legends), Epic Games (Fortnite), et al are safe(pending updates)August 7, 2020
Will Microsoft buy TikTok?
Microsoft is in talks to buy ByteDance’s TikTok operations in the U.S. Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The deal could cost the tech giant an estimated $10 billion to $30 billion.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Trump discussed the possible acquisition of TikTok’s U.S. operations earlier this week. The president also told reporters that he expects the federal government to get “a lot of money” from an acquisition by any American company.
“I said a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States, because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen,” he said.