US President Donald Trump has issued an executive order to ban two popular Chinese social media networks, TikTok and WeChat. The announcement comes as Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok ahead of a 15 September deadline set by Trump.
The executive orders against the short-video sharing platform TikTok – owned by Chinese firm ByteDance – and the messaging service WeChat – owned by the Tencent conglomerate, amid intensified tension between Washington and Beijing. The ban comes into effect in 45 days, if they are not sold by their Chinese-owned parent companies, Trump said in his two separate executive orders signed on Thursday.
In a letter to US Congressional leaders, the US president said: “At this time, the order takes action to address one mobile application in particular, TikTok.” “The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” the president wrote.
The TikTok app may be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, and the United States “must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,” Trump said in one order.
In the other, Trump said WeChat “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”
The latest move comes soon after the US ordered China to vacate its consulate in Houston, Texas followed by China’s order requiring the US to vacate its consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
ByteDance and Tencent have declined so far to comment.
Earlier this week, Trump set September 15 as the deadline for TikTok to find a US buyer. Failing to do so, the app will shut down in the country, he said. Microsoft has been in talks about a possible purchase of TikTok in the United States.