President Trump has issued two sweeping executive orders banning “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” with TikTok and WeChat. The executive orders say the bans go into effect 45 days from yesterday.
Trump’s executive order against TikTok, while unprecedented for an app, isn’t that surprising considering the president has been waging an ongoing war against that app for the past few months. What is more surprising is the second executive order against WeChat, which the president has generally remained quiet about in the past.
While TikTok is owned by China’s ByteDance and is one of the most popular social media platforms out there, WeChat is owned by a completely separate Chinese company called Tencent and the app is one of the most popular messaging, mobile payment, and communication platforms in the world.
In both executive orders, Trump uses the same language, saying the apps present a “national emergency.” In the TikTok executive order, Trump explained, “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.” In the WeChat executive order, he noted, “To protect our Nation, I took action to address the threat posed by one mobile application, TikTok. Further action is needed to address a similar threat posed by another mobile application, WeChat.”
In short, Trump believes TikTok and WeChat could be funneling data about U.S. users to the Chinese Communist Party. What remains to be seen, however, is if either of these executive orders will be held up by the courts, as both TikTok and WeChat are sure to challenge them. As TikTok noted in a statement about the executive order:
This Executive Order risks undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law, which has served as a magnet for investment and spurred decades of American economic growth. And it sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets. We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the Administration, then by the US courts.
Days before the executive order, Microsoft announced it was looking to purchase TikTok. The order should have no effect on those negotiations. Microsoft says it plans to announce its decision on any purchase by September 15, just days before the executive order goes into effect.