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United States President Donald Trump has taken a decision to ban TikTok and WeChat from all app stores in the United States from Sunday. The decision to shut down the apps is now inevitable unless Trump agrees to a last-minute agreement.  

According to the Department of Commerce, after this decision comes into effect, people in the US will no more be able to download the popular Chinese applications through any app store on any platform.

The US administration has accused these apps of sharing personal user data with the Chinese Communist Party, causing a national security threat. The security of this data is extremely imperative for security, military, and political purposes. However, both the accused companies deny this fact and claim that they have no linkages with the Chinese government and no data has been shared.

So people in the United States will no longer be able to use TikTok and WeChat?

YES. According to the orders issued on Friday, WeChat, popular texting and video calling app, will be taken down from all these platforms with effect from Sunday while TikTok will remain available for use until 12 November after which it could also be completely banned.  

What are the apps which are banned?

Tiktok is a video sharing app owned by ByteDance in which users can post videos with a duration of one minute. The users also have access to a huge variety of music and filters.

The app collects a humungous amount of user data to run such as what videos people watch, what they comment, phone model, location data as well as how they type. Such exhaustive data is also collected by other social networking sites such as Facebook. As of September 2020, the company had over 100 million users and it is thought to have more than 800 million members globally.

WeChat is a multi-purpose app introduced by Tencent in 2011. It allows users to send messages, use local services as well as make payments; Often popularizing it as an “app for everything” in China. WeChat has more than 1 billion users currently.  

WeChat censors content the government classifies as illegal or inappropriate, just like other Chinese social media platforms. A report in March said that WeChat censored crucial Covid-19 related keywords from as early as 1 January.

However, WeChat constantly insists on its encryption feature. It means that your messages (text, audio, and images) are not stored on its servers and others cannot keep a check on them. According to the company, these messages are deleted as soon as all intended recipients have read them.

How did the companies react?

ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company said that it was highly ‘disappointed’ in the decision declared by the Trump administration. The company disagreed with the department of commerce making a point that it had already taken all measures to achieve and maintain the “unprecedented levels of additional transparency” in light of the Trump administration’s concerns.

TikTok said, “We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order.”  The decision it said, had been made without carrying out the required procedures and threatened to deprive the Americans and businesses in the states of a platform which is crucial for both speech and economy.

WeChat is owned by Tencent, a Chinese company. It said that the decision was “unfortunate” and that it would maintain continuous talks with the Trump administration to achieve common ground. The order to ban the apps was followed by Donald Trump’s executive orders signed in August which gave US businesses 45 days to stop operations with either Chinese company.

What about the partnership between Oracle and TikTok?

The planned agreement between Oracle and TikTok is yet to be approved by President Trump. If it is given a green signal, then the app would not be banned.

On Friday, Donald Trump told the local reporters that there is a potential in the TikTok deal to be approved. He also added that when the US needed security from China, TikTok was “an amazing company, very very popular” and that it supported it in every way.

What does the order say?

Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of the US Department of Commerce, said that as per President Trump’s direction, the Department has done the needful to safeguard the personal data of its American citizens from the malicious Chinese authorities. The Department reported that the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok were not similar to each other. However, both the apps collected high levels of private data, such as location data, network activity, search histories, and, browsing data of its users.

As per the order, one will not be able to transfer funds or process payments to or from people in the United States from Sunday.  

But Tiktok will be available for virtually as normal. However, new and latest updates won’t be available. Trump has given a deadline of 12 November to TikTok to resolve issues posing a threat to the national security concerns. Although the app has not been banned completely, some of its technical transactions will be prohibited and functionality will be affected as well.

 Why does the US want the apps banned?

The US government has constantly accused these apps of being a threat to the nation because of the vast variety of data they collect.

This has now become all about Donald Trump. Some reports suggest that China would prefer to shut down TikTok over adhering to Trump’s demands or selling it to the US.   It’s been reported that China would rather TikTok be closed down than be forced to sell to the US. Trump’s motives are still not clear whether he’s doing it to flex his muscle against China or to force the company in a profitable deal. With 48 hours to go until a potential ban, there is still the potential to negotiate. So there is uncertainty around the matter and the future of these companies.

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