The US Commerce Department plans to issue an order Friday that will bar people in the United States from downloading Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat and video-sharing app TikTok starting on September 20, three officials told Reuters.
The officials said the ban on new US downloads of TikTok could be still rescinded by President Donald Trump before it takes effect late Sunday as TikTok owner ByteDance races to clinch an agreement over the fate of its US operations.
ByteDance has been talks with Oracle Corp and others to create a new company, TikTok Global, that aims to address US concerns about the security of its users’ data. ByteDance still needs Trump’s approval to stave off a US ban.
The Commerce Department order will “deplatform” the two apps in the United States and bar Apple Inc’s app store, Alphabet Inc’s Google Play and others from offering the apps on any platform “that can be reached from within the United States,” a senior Commerce official told Reuters.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made public.
The order will not ban US companies from doing businesses on WeChat outside the United States, which will be welcome news to US firms like Walmart and Starbucks that use WeChat’s embedded ‘mini-app’ programs to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China.
The order will not bar transactions with WeChat-owner Tencent Holdings’ other businesses, including its online gaming operations and will not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the United States.
The bans are in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump on Aug. 6 that gave the Commerce Department 45 days to determine what transactions to block from the apps he deemed pose a national security threat. That deadline expires on Sunday.
Commerce Department officials said they were taking the extraordinary step because of the risks the apps’ data collection poses. China and the companies have denied US user data is collected for spying.
In a statement to Reuters, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said “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 US laws and regulations.”
The order is set to be published at 8:45 a.m. EDT (1245 GMT) on Friday, the officials said.