Trump issues two executive orders to prohibit U.S. transactions with TikTok and WeChat within 45 days on the grounds of national security U....
Trump issues two executive orders to prohibit U.S. transactions with TikTok and WeChat within 45 days on the grounds of national security
U.S. President Donald Trump issued executive orders to ban U.S. transactions with WeChat, the messaging application owned by Tencent Holdings, and ByteDance, owner of TikTok, within 45 days, describing Chinese companies as threats to national security.
The TikTok Threat Control Decree states the following about the application:
"TikTok automatically captures vast amounts of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories. This data collection threatens to give the Chinese Communist Party access to the personal and proprietary information of Americans - potentially allowing China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build personal information files for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage. »
The reasons given in the WeChat threat decree are as follows:
"WeChat automatically captures vast amounts of information from its users. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party to access the personal and proprietary information of Americans. In addition, the application captures the personal and proprietary information of Chinese nationals visiting the United States, providing the Chinese Communist Party with a mechanism to keep an eye on Chinese citizens who may be enjoying the benefits of a free society for the first time in their lives. »
The executive orders each state that the United States "must take aggressive action" against the owners of each application "to protect our national security.
China opposes US presidential decrees on Tiktok and Wechat
The President's decrees intensify his administration's repression of Chinese technology groups and have elicited a strong response from Beijing. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Friday condemned Trump's decision, calling the decrees "an abuse of power" and "outright intimidation".
The Chinese Foreign Ministry strongly opposes the decrees announced by US President Donald Trump banning US transactions with Chinese owners of the WeChat messaging application and the video-sharing application TikTok, Beijing said Friday. Beijing will defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and the United States should bear the consequences of their actions, ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters at a daily briefing, without giving details.
"The United States uses national security as an excuse and uses state power to oppress non-U.S. companies. It's just a hegemonic practice. China is strongly opposed to it,"
The U.S. executive orders, which take effect in 45 days, come after the Trump administration announced its efforts to purge "unreliable" Chinese applications from U.S. digital networks and called WeChat (controlled by Tencent Holdings Ltd.) and TikTok (from ByteDance) "significant threats.
Wang said the US was sacrificing user and business interests and engaging in political manipulation and oppression, adding that it would "only lose its moral standing with a damaged image and a lack of trust".
TikTok, the video messaging application that has become one of the most downloaded video messaging applications in the world, said it was "shocked" and threatened legal action.
ByteDance, the owner of Tiktok, had already begun discussions with Microsoft about selling TikTok's business in the United States and several other countries. The current decrees give the parties 45 days to reach an agreement. An order-in-council issued by Trump will prohibit any transactions between individuals or companies based in the United States and ByteDance. The second prohibits any transaction with Tencent that involves WeChat.
The definition of "transaction" will be clarified by the Secretary of Commerce, also in 45 days, according to the White House announcement. Trump issued the orders under the authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977.
The U.S. administration has broadened the scope of its crackdown on Chinese technology. This week, the State Department released details of a "clean" network initiative to take action against Beijing on several fronts ranging from applications to cloud storage.
Trump accused TikTok and WeChat in the executive order of being spy tools that allowed Beijing to spy on the United States as it captured huge amounts of user data. In addition, Trump said that both applications are used for propaganda purposes, as they would censor "content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive and may also be used for disinformation campaigns for the benefit of the Chinese Communist Party".
The executive order is likely to force US application stores, including Google and Apple, to remove TikTok and WeChat. It is unclear whether use or downloading of the applications will be banned in the United States after 45 days, according to legal experts.
Nicholas Turner, a Hong lawyer based in Kong at the law firm Steptoe & Johnson said:
"The specific impacts are not yet known and are subject to regulations to be issued by the Department of Commerce . The restrictions may affect the ability of Americans to use these applications or result in other more appropriate restrictions,"
"Downloading the application is more likely to be prohibited because it involves signing a user agreement with companies, which is a transaction by definition," said Ye Jun, a partner in the Chicago-based law firm Getech Law, which specializes in corporate and patent law. Ye added:
"It's harder to prohibit the use of applications. If users already have them on their phones, it is almost impossible to ask them to remove them or stop using them unless the United States can create an "excellent firewall" to block them once and for all,"
The latest administration decision will also put additional pressure on ByteDance to reach an agreement with Microsoft. Trump said last week that if TikTok's US operations were not taken over by a US company by September 15, the application would be banned in the country.
TikTok said Friday:
"For nearly a year, we have been working in good faith with the U.S. government to work constructively with them to address the concerns that have been raised. Instead, what we have encountered is that the Administration has paid no attention to the facts, dictated the terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private companies. "
The company stated that it would:
"pursue all remedies available to us to ensure that the rule of law is not overridden and that our company and our users are treated fairly - if not by the Administration, then by the U.S. courts.
The founder and CEO of ByteDance, Zhang Yiming, said Tuesday in an internal company letter that the real goal of the US government has always been to ban enforcement rather than "force the sale of TikTok".
TikTok has been very popular among young Z-generation social media users in the United States, where the application had been installed 180 million times by the beginning of July, according to data from the market research company Sensor Tower, in a country of 328 million people. Although WeChat does not have as large a user base in the United States as TikTok (of the 279 million downloads of the application overseas over the past six years, the United States contributed less than 7 per cent, or 19 million), it is used by many Chinese living overseas as a tool for personal and professional communication.
However, Trump said the Chinese Communist Party uses the app to "keep an eye on Chinese citizens who may be enjoying the benefits of a free society for the first time in their lives. »
TikTok worse than Facebook when it comes to data collection?
In July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that Americans should only use TikTok "if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. Not only is the Republican Party administration going wild; the Democratic National Committee also warned campaign staff not to use TikTok on their work phones, citing the amount of data collected.
TikTok collects a lot of personal data, but it is nothing more than what Facebook and other social networks collect as well. The difference between TikTok and Facebook is that Facebook is required to be very transparent in the process by which it shares information with different governments. Specifically, Facebook does not share data with the Chinese government.
In the end, the most difficult privacy dispute of 2020 is not about privacy or technology at all; it's about China. The question "Is Facebook better, worse or the same as TikTok? "is more or less the same as "Is the U.S. better, worse or the same as China? »
So has the United States engaged in a war that it cannot win and in which it should not even have started in the first place? Before answering this question, it would be interesting to recall, however, that in 2017 China ratified a National Intelligence Law that requires all Chinese companies to cooperate with the government in the context of national security.