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TikTok, WeChat to be banned Sunday from US app stores

The Trump administration announced Friday that it will ban WeChat and TikTok from U.S. app stores starting Sunday.

The order is a significant escalation against the two Chinese-owned apps that have massive user bases in the U.S.

WeChat users will also be banned from transferring funds and processing payments through the messaging apps starting Sunday.

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The Commerce Department restrictions will also bar companies from providing internet hosting, content delivery networks or peering services for WeChat or use any of the app's code, functions or services within the U.S. as of Sunday. The same restrictions will apply to TikTok starting Nov. 12.

“Today’s actions prove once again that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossIt's time to reckon with space junk Census Bureau to hold count through end of October Judge begins contempt proceedings for Wilbur Ross over allegedly defying census order MORE said in a statement. “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 U.S. laws and regulations.”

Friday’s announced restrictions are the result of an Aug. 6 executive order that targeted transactions with TikTok and WeChat, arguing that their ties to China posed a national security threat.

TikTok is being given more time to address those concerns because it is currently in negotiations to be acquired by the U.S.-based company Oracle.

A deal between the social media app’s parent company ByteDance and the Silicon Valley business software giant to become partners was submitted to the Treasury Department over the weekend and is still being reviewed. The contours of the partnership have not been made public.

A spokesperson for TikTok condemned the new restrictions, saying that the proposed deal with Oracle would already address the data transparency and security concerns.

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"Our community of 100 million U.S. users love TikTok because it's a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection, and we’re committed to protecting their privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform," they told The Hill Friday.

"In our proposal to the U.S. Administration, we've already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and U.S. government oversight of U.S. data security. Further, an American technology provider would be responsible for maintaining and operating the TikTok network in the U.S., which would include all services and data serving U.S. consumers."

The company also committed to continuing to challenge the executive order in the courts. The lawsuit filed last month seeks an injunction halting the bar on transactions, arguing that the administration failed to provide evidence for TikTok being a national security threat.

"We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods," the spokesperson said.

The Department of Commerce said Friday that if TikTok’s national security concerns were resolved by Nov. 12 then the restrictions could be lifted.

Users that already have TikTok downloaded on their phones will not be directly affected unless the second round of restrictions take effect.

TikTok, however, will not be able to issue any updates to the app starting Sunday. That could cause security concerns because any exploits discovered in the time period would not be patchable.

A spokesperson for Tencent, the owner of WeChat, said in a statement that they are reviewing the announcement and continuing to discuss data security solutions with the administration.

"The restrictions announced today are unfortunate, but given our desire to provide ongoing services to our users in the U.S. — for whom WeChat is an important communication tool — we will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the U.S. ways to achieve a long-term solution," they said.

Updated at 1:04 p.m.