TikTok and WeChat’s days in the United States may be numbered after President Donald Trump signed executive orders banning financial dealings with their parent companies, citing national security concerns.
President Trump signed two executive orders banning financial transactions between “any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” and the apps’ Chinese-owned parent companies, ByteDance and Tencent.
— Jane Tang 唐家婕 (@ccjanetang) August 7, 2020
The bans are expected to begin in 45 days.
An executive order allows a sitting president to sign a directive effectively becoming a law. It allows the president to bypass the usual democratic process of passing legislation through Congress. President Trump controversially signed one in 2019 to ban Huawei and another in 2017 to ban immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
These can only be reversed by a further executive order or a legal challenge by the courts or Congress.
TikTok has been the subject of intense scrutiny by the U.S. government with Trump urging it to be bought over by a U.S. company, like Microsoft, or face a hard ban in the country by September 15.
The U.S Senate also passed a bill on Thursday banning any federal worker from downloading the app on federal devices.
TikTok’s future in Australia is safe for now
The TikTok ban discussion also arrived in Australia after a Herald Sun report quoted an unnamed politician calling for the app to be prohibited. The anonymous source alleged TikTok had ‘hoovered’ up the personal data of the 1.6 million Australians who’d downloaded it and sent it to China.
TikTok Australia’s manager, Lee Hunter, denied the allegations, explaining the data was stored in Singapore and not under the Chinese government’s jurisdiction.
“TikTok does not share information of our users in Australia with any foreign government, including the Chinese Government, and would not do so if asked. We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity,” Hunter said in a media statement.
“[The Herald Sun’s] news report is based on an unnamed source, supported by an organisation which has disclosed the receipt of foreign funding to publish its reports.”
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed his government had no intention of banning TikTok after it failed to find a credible threat.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Morrison said while he had concerns about the personal data of Australians, a ban was not being considered at this stage.
“Nothing at this point … would suggest to us that security interests have been compromised or Australian citizens have been compromised because of what’s happening with those applications,” Morrison said.
Gizmodo Australia has contacted TikTok for its response to Trump’s executive order.