Trump targets Tik-Tok & WeChat – Apps may be banned

Farai Mudzingwa Avatar

A few days ago, Trump threatened to ban TikTok if the company wasn’t bought by a US company. This led to a flurry of rumours pointing to a TikTok purchase by Microsoft.

Yesterday, the threat turned into reality and a nightmare for Bytedance and Naspers (parent owners of TikTok and WeChat). Trump issued an executive order which claimed wide-use of these applications is a national emergency;

The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.

At this time, action must be taken to address the threat posed by one mobile application in particular, TikTok.

In 44 days, “any transaction by any person” with ByteDance or it’s subsidiaries will be banned. Many believe that this means, Google Play and Apple Store will no longer be allowed to host TikTok or any other application from ByteDance.

A similar ban has been placed on Naspers which develops WeChat and will also take effect in 44 days.

TikTok which has over 800 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs) is one of the most popular social media platforms at the moment and such a ban will definitely leave a huge hole in ByteDance’s pocket.

At the time of writing the impact of the ban is already being felt by Naspers which has seen its stock price fall by 4.4% since the announcement. Naspers holds 31% in WeChat owner Tencent.

China vs USA

China and the US are in a well-documented trade war and previously Trump issued a similar order which impacted Huawei last year. Huawei is still dealing with the impact of that executive order which continues getting tightened. Most recently, the US pressure TSMC the chipmaker making Huawei’s chip to stop making chips for the Chinese company.

Whilst many have sympathised with Huawei who seem to be a victim of politics, there will be less sympathy in the app world. China already blocks a number of apps from the US and the West, so this just seems like poetic justice.

In the case of TikTok there is even less sympathy since the application has been caught in a number of controversies regarding user data. In November 2019, TikTok was reportedly censoring videos posted by users. A few months later the application was branded as Spyware by Reddit’s CEO;

Maybe I’m going to regret this, but I can’t even get to that level of thinking with them, because I look at that app as so fundamentally parasitic, that it’s always listening, the fingerprinting technology they use is truly terrifying, and I could not bring myself to install an app like that on my phone.

I actively tell people, ‘Don’t install that spyware on your phone

Steve Huffman

In June, TikTok was then identified among apps that were looking at users Clipboard’s without permission. This meant the app could see everything you copied.

Because of this, I think TikTok won’t garner as much sympathy as Huawei has. Their user base could be vocal once the app starts disappearing from Stores but whether that changes Trump’s mind or not is another thing entirely.

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