US to Ban TikTok, WeChat From App Stores on Sunday

The US Commerce Department said Friday it will ban Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat from US app stores on Sunday and will bar the apps from accessing essential internet services in the US — a move that could effectively wreck the operation of both Chinese services for US users.

Americans will be unable to download TikTok on mobile devices through American app marketplaces after Sunday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced today. However, the administration extended its earliest deadline for ByteDance to sell the popular social video app to November 12.

Ross, who also took action against Tencent-owned messaging app WeChat, said the decision was aimed at combating “China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data,” though TikTok has vehemently denied that it shares US user data with the Chinese government.

“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 US laws and regulations,” Ross said in a written statement.

President Donald Trump signed executive orders banning TikTok and WeChat on August 6. Those orders gave the Department of Commerce a 45-day window to outline what, exactly, a ban would entail. That 45-day period expires on Sunday, September 20, so that is when the bans take effect.

Not only will app stores not be allowed to permit new downloads, but Internet hosting services and content delivery network services will also be banned from “enabling the functioning or the optimization” of the apps, and “directly contracted or arranged Internet transit or peering services” will also be prohibited. All platforms will also be prohibited from providing services through WeChat specifically that allow anyone to transfer funds or process payment within the US.

Up until recently, it appeared that the TikTok ban would be avoided through potential deals between US-based companies Microsoft and Oracle. In early August, Microsoft announced that it was in discussions with ByteDance about taking over TikTok’s US operations. Microsoft execs said they’d complete the discussions no later than September 15.

It remains to be seen whether a deal with Oracle is finalized before the September 20 ban is actually implemented.