US President Donald Trump today signed two executive orders to ban TikTok owner ByteDance and WeChat owner Tencent in the US. Within 45 days, transactions with both these companies must come to an end.
Here’s why ByteDance/TikTok is banned:
TikTok, a video-sharing mobile application owned by the Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., has reportedly been downloaded over 175 million times in the United States and over one billion times globally. TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.
TikTok also reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive, such as content concerning protests in Hong Kong and China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. This mobile application may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
These risks are real. The Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, and the United States Armed Forces have already banned the use of TikTok on Federal Government phones. The Government of India recently banned the use of TikTok and other Chinese mobile applications throughout the country; in a statement, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asserted that they were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.” American companies and organizations have begun banning TikTok on their devices. The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security.
Here’s why WeChat/Tencent is banned:
WeChat, a messaging, social media, and electronic payment application owned by the Chinese company Tencent Holdings Ltd., reportedly has over one billion users worldwide, including users in the United States. Like TikTok, WeChat automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information. In addition, the application captures the personal and proprietary information of Chinese nationals visiting the United States, thereby allowing the Chinese Communist Party a mechanism for keeping tabs on Chinese citizens who may be enjoying the benefits of a free society for the first time in their lives. For example, in March 2019, a researcher reportedly discovered a Chinese database containing billions of WeChat messages sent from users in not only China but also the United States, Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia. WeChat, like TikTok, also reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive and may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party. These risks have led other countries, including Australia and India, to begin restricting or banning the use of WeChat. The United States must take aggressive action against the owner of WeChat to protect our national security.
When it comes to ByteDance, we already know that Microsoft is planning to acquire TikTok’s US operations. We are not sure how this executive order will affect Tencent’s operations in the US because Tencent is a major player in the gaming industry. Tencent has huge investments including Riot Games (100% ownership), Supercell (84% ownership), Epic Games (40% ownership), Blizzard (5% ownership) and Ubisoft (5% ownership).