Only days after software giant Oracle announced it would replace Microsoft as the American buyer for the Chinese-based app TikTok, the Trump Administration has pulled the plug. Starting Sunday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the popular video-sharing app will “for all practical purposes, shut down.” The White House will additionally block WeChat, a multifunctional messaging app that many in the States use to communicate with family in China.
The announcement comes after months of friction between the Trump Administration and ByteDance, the Beijing-based parent company that owns and operates TikTok. American leaders have warned that ByteDance can collect and share user data with the Chinese government through the app. As a result, President Trump signed an executive order in August that gave TikTok a short period to hand over United States operations to an American company.
While Microsoft took an initial interest, Beijing rejected the Seattle-based company’s offer last week. Into the breach stepped another Silicon Valley software giant, Oracle. However, the deal between Oracle and ByteDance was not satisfactory to Trump, as it only afforded the American company a minority stake in the Chinese venture. Now, the September 20th deadline in Trump’s executive order approaches, and the White House does not intend to extend it.
What Does the Shutdown Mean?
Sunday’s ban will affect both TikTok and WeChat. It will bar any transfer of funds or other transactions through WeChat, and prohibits companies from hosting or delivering content through the platform. Additionally, no user in the United States will be allowed to download new TikTok or WeChat updates after Sunday. While TikTok already has 100 million users in the United States, they will be unable to update the app, and new users will be unable to sign up.
There is still some time. An updated deadline of November 12 gives Oracle and ByteDance a few more weeks to sort out a potential acquisition. But if they cannot close a deal to hand over majority operational stakes to Oracle by that date, the White House will intensify its restrictions.
TikTok has long denied accusations of sharing data with the Chinese government. Furthermore, to ease tension, it has built up an American leadership team, including Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive. He serves as TikTok CEO and Vanessa Pappas, as the company’s General Manager.
On Friday, Pappas called upon other US-based social media companies to help defend TikTok from federal intervention. “We agree that this type of ban would be bad for the industry,” Pappas tweeted. “We invite Facebook and Instagram to join our challenge and support our litigation publicly. This is a moment to put aside our competition and focus on core principles like freedom of expression and due process of law.”
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has accused the Trump Administration of unconstitutional action.
“This order issued today violates the First Amendment rights of people in the United States by restricting their ability to communicate and conduct important transactions on TikTok and WeChat,” the ACLU tweeted. “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.”