SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — President Trump signed an executive order Thursday to ban transactions with the Chinese owners of TikTok and WeChat in 45 days.
Although it remains unclear if he has the legal authority to actually ban the apps from the U.S., Trump says any company doing business with TikTok in 45 days is subject to sanctions.
They call on the Commerce Secretary to define the banned transactions by that time. The orders’ wording is vague, but leaves open the possibility that hosting the apps in the Apple and Google app stores could be covered by the ban.
TikTok, a video-sharing mobile app, has reportedly been downloaded over 175 million times in the United States and over one billion times globally.
“This is an unprecedented use of presidential authority,” Eurasia Group analyst Paul Triolo said in an email. At a minimum, he said, the orders appear to “constitute a ban on the ability of U.S. app stores run by Apple and Google to include either mobile app after 45 days.”
Triolo said it’s possible the orders would face legal challenges, and warned that Beijing is likely to “react harshly at least rhetorically.” Trump’s orders cited legal authority from the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act.
WeChat and its sister app Weixin in China are hugely popular messaging apps; many Chinese expatriates use WeChat to stay in touch with friends and family back home. WeChat also says it doesn’t share data with the Chinese government and never has, and does not store international user data in China. U.S. user data is stored in Canada.
The app has been a source of national security and censorship concerns, according to a person familiar with the discussions who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity to the negotiations.
Microsoft was in advanced talks to buy the U.S. operations of TikTok.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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