The Commerce Department announced on Saturday the official WeChat ban and new TikTok restrictions in the US. The release said no app store will be allowed to update or permit new downloads of either WeChat or TikTok.
WeChat is a private messaging app by Chinese developers that was launched in 2011, and it has now joined the list of “dangerous” apps in America. The app functions as a social media platform, payment method, and a way to send texts. Trump announced that the government WeChat ban will prohibit new app downloads starting September 20, 2020.
As of Sunday, no mobile app store in the U.S. will be allowed to distribute or maintain TikTok or WeChat, the Commerce Department says.https://t.co/ckWSlr5yHj
— NPR (@NPR) September 18, 2020
Though users with the app already downloaded will still be able to use it, certain features will no longer function. US users won’t be able to transfer money through the app starting this Sunday onward, and there will be no further updates available.
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Although WeChat has over a billion users worldwide, Americans account for only 19 million of those. This is relatively small compared to the 165 million users on the massively popular TikTok, another Chinese developed app that caused a stir in the US.
Secretary Wilbur Ross gave a prepared statement on the matter saying, “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.”
The decision to ban further downloads of WeChat stems from the same issue that arose with TikTok: data collection. The government believes the large amounts of personal and algorithm data collected by the app pose a threat to national security. “While the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, they are similar. Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories,” claims Ross.
Unfortunately, the WeChat ban is immediately effective and nonnegotiable. However, the press release had also placed regulations on TikTok which are now changed. It would have banned further updates from the app store as of Sunday, though users would keep the full functionality of the app. Basically, unlike the WeChat ban, if you already had TikTok it wouldn’t have changed yet.
However, Saturday evening Trump approved the deal between TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, Oracle, and Walmart. The announcement, which came just in time to avoid the Sunday ban, created a new deal that includes the following stipulations:
- Oracle and Walmart will collectively hold up to a 20% store
- TikTok will be headquartered in Texas
- 4/5 board members will be American
- 25,000 jobs will be created by TikTok
Trump also added an extra demand hat $5 billion be channeled into the education of “real” US history. Who knows what this “real” history program will teach, but the whole deal is still pending approval from the Chinese government before it can become official.