The U.S. president has officially banned business transactions on Chinese-owned social media messaging app WeChat and the popular short-form video app TikTok, effective Sunday, the U.S. Commerce Department announced Friday morning.
This follows a Trump administration action forcing TikTok to sell the U.S. portion of its operations to a U.S.-owned company within 45 days or face a ban in this country. The end of the 45-day period is Sunday, CNBC reported.
“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.” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in the announcement.
WeChat, one of the world’s most popular social messaging apps, is owned by the Chinese company Tencent. It has 19 million U.S. daily active users. TikTok has 800 million active users worldwide including 100 million in the U.S. It’s owned by China-based ByteDance.
Trump cited national security concerns over the Chinese government’s access to U.S. user data as justification for a ban.
Starting Sunday, U.S. mobile app stores run by Apple and Google are banned from distributing WeChat and TikTok. U.S. companies can no longer provide services through WeChat “for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the U.S.” according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
Oracle, a software and cloud-computing operation with almost no experience running a social-media platform, is negotiating to buy TikTok‘s U.S. operations. Oracle would provide cloud services for TikTok if Trump approves the deal.
TikTok has until Nov. 12 to resolve U.S. national security concerns before U.S. companies will be blocked from providing internet hosting and services for TikTok. This could give TikTok and Oracle more time to hammer out a deal that will satisfy the president, CNBC reported.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has actively tried to raise the alarm about TikTok and its Chinese owner, ByteDance.
In a private dinner at the White House in October, Zuckerberg told Trump that Chinese internet companies should be a bigger concern to the U.S. than regulating Facebook.
“Few tech companies have as much to gain as Facebook from TikTok’s travails,” Wall Street Journal reported.
Facebook established an advocacy group, American Edge, running ads and acting as cheerleader for U.S. tech companies their contributions to U.S. economic strength, national security and cultural influence.
In the first half of 2020, Facebook spent more on lobbying than any other company, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By comparison, it ranked eighth among companies for lobbying spending in 2018.
Zuckerberg’s comments in Washington about TikTok are part of an effort to “blunt” antitrust and regulatory threats against Facebook, WSJ reported.
“As Chinese companies and influence have been growing so has the risk of a global internet based on their values, as opposed to ours,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a written statement.
In the first quarter of 2020, TikTok and its 100-million-plus U.S. users was the most downloaded app, according to research firm Sensor Tower. Facebook, by comparison, had 256 million monthly users in the U.S. and Canada at the end of June.
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“TikTok is the biggest threat to Facebook’s dominance of social media, as the app’s blend of dance videos and goofs has made it a sensation among young people around the world,” WSJ reported.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) met with Zuckerberg in September and said in a hearing that TikTok threatens the privacy of American children. “For Facebook, the fear is lost social-media market share,” he said. “For the rest of us, the fear is somewhat different.”
A spokeswoman for Sen. Hawley said, “Facebook has recently been sounding the alarm about China-based tech as a PR tactic to boost its own reputation.”
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