The United States Commerce Department has now confirmed with Reuters that it plans to issue an order today that will “deplatform” both TikTok and WeChat in the United States. With this order, it will effectively ban anyone in the United States from downloading TikTok and WeChat beginning Sunday, September 20, 2020.
While this is the plan right now, things can still change. According to the officials, there is a chance that a ban might not be implemented at all if ByteDance, the China-based company that owns TikTok, agrees to a sale to a U.S.-based company.
Per a statement provided to Reuters from U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross:
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.
While some companies were tossed into the ring for consideration in buying part of TikTok, it turned out to be Oracle that jumped to the fore. That company envisioned a brand new company called “TikTok Global”, which would aim to address U.S. security issues raised by the government. But while that appeared to be the solution to the problem, it may not come to fruition at all.
If this ban goes through, then all domestic app stores that offer access to TikTok and WeChat will need to remove the app if the ban does go through. That includes Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. Meanwhile, other apps that are distributed by ByteDance and Tencent, which are mostly games, will remain available in the digital storefronts.
For companies that use TikTok and WeChat outside of the United States, and there are many, they will continue to be able to use the apps outside of the United States. And the U.S. Commerce Department is not going to compel any individual users to stop using WeChat or TikTok, and will not force them to remove the apps from their devices. The government is just focusing on stopping new downloads of the apps.
It’s possible that nothing happens here, at least in the case of TikTok. Oracle may still work something out to keep the app around in U.S. digital storefronts. However, the question at this point really circles around WeChat — one of the most popular messaging services on the planet. WeChat is not under any consideration for an acquisition deal, so, as it stands right now, can’t avoid a ban in the United States.