On Thursday, US President Donald Trump has issued executive orders, preventing US transactions with Chinese tech giants such as Tencent and ByteDance after 45 days. The move comes in the backdrop of stalled trade and escalated tensions between the United States and China, amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.
BREAKING: President Trump just issued an executive order "on Addressing the Threat Posed by TikTok." It takes effect in 45 days, prohibits "any transaction" with ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, and will almost certainly face legal challenges. pic.twitter.com/Ma9XOfYgOB— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) August 7, 2020
Donald Trump invoked the legal authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and National Emergencies Act to curb the use of Chinese apps such as WeChat and TikTok which are owned by Tencent and Byte Dance respectively. In its executive order addressing the threat posed by TikTok, the US government noted, “TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories.”
The executive orders basically means that TikTok cannot operate in the US after 45 days unless it is sold to an American Company within that period.
The order pointed out that the personal data and proprietary information of American users, collected through the Chinese video-sharing social media app, are shared with the Communist Party of China (CCP). The US government emphasised that the data theft and privacy breach can be used by the Chinese authorities to blackmail, facilitate ‘corporate espionage’, and track the location of Federal employees.
The executive order revealed that TikTok regularly censors ‘politically sensitive’ content such as the HongKong protests or the persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang. ” This mobile application may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus,” it reiterated.
Donald Trump cites India’s ban on TikTok in his executive order
Donald Trump also cited the example of India and the ‘digital strike‘ carried out on 59 Chinese apps in June this year. He said, “The Government of India recently banned the use of TikTok and other Chinese mobile applications throughout the country; in a statement, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asserted that they were stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.” He also informed that the Chinese video-sharing app has been banned by the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, and the United States Armed Forces.
Donald Trump issues executive order against WeChat
In the executive order highlighting the threat posed by WeChat, the US government noted that the Chinese authorities keep track of not just the American citizens using the said app but also Chinese nationals visiting the States. “In March 2019, a researcher reportedly discovered a Chinese database containing billions of WeChat messages sent from users in not only China but also the United States, Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia,” the executive order read. It also accused the Chinese app of censorship of politically inconvenient content on the behest of the Chinese authorities. The order further emphasised, “The United States must take aggressive action against the owner of WeChat to protect our national security.”
Trump had hinted about banning TikTok a week earlier
On July 31, US President Donald Trump informed that he might ban TikTok, a Chinese video-sharing social media app, in the country. “We are looking at TikTok. We may be banning it… A lot of happening. We are looking at other alternatives with respect to TikTok,” President Donald Trump said addressing the media.
US tech giant Microsoft is in discussion with ByteDance to acquire TikTok. Trump had also earlier stated that if Microsoft fails to but TikTok within a stipulated time frame, he will ban the app.