/U.S. to start blocking TikTok and WeChat downloads Sunday

U.S. to start blocking TikTok and WeChat downloads Sunday

The U.S. will begin blocking the distribution of the Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat on Sunday, the Department of Commerce said Friday.

Commerce said in a news release that U.S. mobile platforms will be prohibited from distributing the apps, meaning new downloads will be blocked.

But TikTok will not disappear entirely on Sunday. The app will still work for at least a few more weeks. Commerce said that crucial services that TikTok relies on, such as internet hosting and transit services, will not be prohibited until Nov. 12 — pushing the deadline to after the election.

WeChat, however, faces a full ban on Sunday.

The statement gives TikTok a reprieve as it continues to negotiate a deal in hopes of staving off the full ban.

“The real shut down would come after November 12 in the event that there is not another transaction,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in an interview on Fox Business Network. “So it’s very different how the two are being handled and that reflects the quantitative and the qualitative and differences between the two apps”

Google and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The apps were the subject of an executive order from President Donald Trump in early August in which Trump said the apps posed a threat to national security.

The new deadline adds more tension to the already dramatic negotiations currently happening between TikTok’s parent company ByteDance and U.S. technology company Oracle. The two companies have been in talks about a deal to mollify the president’s concerns.

On Thursday, the two companies reached an agreement on a deal that would stop short of Trump’s demand that TikTok be sold to a U.S. company. Instead, TikTok would become a global company based in the U.S., with Oracle taking responsibility for TikTok’s U.S. operations and its handling of user data, according to two people familiar with the arrangement who were not authorized to speak publicly.

That deal still needs the approval of Trump and Chinese authorities.

Oracle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TikTok has amassed about 100 million monthly U.S. users, making it one of the only rivals to social media giants Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. The app provides an easy way for people to record short snippets of video and put music or sounds to them. The app’s popularity, particularly among younger Americans, has already spurred its own generation of celebrities.

But its ownership by a Chinese tech company has been a point of contention among U.S. politicians who have expressed concern that China’s government could demand the user data of millions of Americans. That data could then be used for espionage purposes, but security experts have warned that data security is a problem that goes well beyond TikTok or apps that are owned by Chinese companies.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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