WASHINGTON - Social media users of the apps WeChat and TikTok are bracing for change. This, after the U.S. Commerce Dept. announced it will soon implement a ban on both apps.
“WeChat in the U-S for all practical purposes will be shut down,” said Commerce Sec. Wilber Ross.
Sunday, the federal government will halt access to the apps WeChat and TikTok. The Trump administration, fearing these Chinese-owned platforms, can exploit security gaps and harvest data from U-S users. In theory, it argues, such action threatens American foreign policy and the overall economy.
“Have the security we need. We have to have the total security from China. We’re not going to do anything to jeopardize security,” Trump said Friday during a White House press briefing.
By the second half of the weekend, users will no longer be able to download either app, or receive upgrades.
“If you want to become a TikTok users or if you lose your phone and want to reinstall it, you won’t be able to download it, assuming the trump administration action actually takes place,” said tech analyst Larry Magid, who is CEO of ConnectSafely.com “You certainly won’t be able to download WeChat…”
TikTok targets the 16-to-24 year old demographic which is largely guided by social influencers. Some users say it’s targeted videos creates the biggest appeal.
“Based on what you like, it gives you content they think that you’ll enjoy. And me and my friends can look completely different. So if you like music videos or dancing videos, it really caters to you,” said Arden McCord, an 18-year-old Georgian who regularly uses TikTok.
WeChat is geared for communications, particularly in China. Business experts say it’s shutdown could impact trade between the two nations.
“They have over a billion users. And a good number of those users are in China. So if you want to reach China, this is a great way to do it,” said Dr. Colleen Haight, a San Jose State University economist.
Civil libertarians worry curtailing access to the apps can hinder free speech..
“To say they can’t communicate in this way using this tool is a restriction on their rights to speak. And what our laws require is that such restrictions need to be really, really, precisely tailored,” said attorney David Greene, the civil liberties director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Added Prof. Anna Han, an international business law expert at Santa Clara University, "If you're concerned about data privacy, my advocacy would be clean our own house first. We have plenty of U.S. companies not doing enough to protect our own privacy.”
There are already on-going lawsuits seeking an injunction against the Trump administration. An emergency ruling in a case involving WeChat users is expected Sept. 19.
Additionally, business leader, the White House, and Chinese authorities are working collaboratively to arrange the sale of some of TikTok’s operations. At least one American company, Bay Area-based Oracle, is a potential suiter. If that happens by the Nov. 12, then the TikTok app may be restored in the U.S.