The U.S. Department of Commerce announced on Friday that it will be moving to ban TikTok and WeChat following Executive Orders issued by President Trump.
Trump’s orders were signed on August 6, 2020 and called for action “to address the threat posed by one mobile application in particular, TikTok,” and “to address a similar threat posed by another mobile application, WeChat.”
The order regarding Tiktok referred to a prior ban in India against the popular social networking app, which allows users to share short videos using optional filters and music.
The app has been controversial in recent months with issues around security, privacy, and users posting sensitive or violent content.
In his Executive Order, Trump accused the app’s owners, Chinese company ByteDance Ltd. of spreading disinformation campaigns and propaganda on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.
“The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,” Trump said in the order.
WeChat, an instant-messaging app, is also owned by a Chinese company—Tencent Holdings Ltd.—and was also banned in India recently.
The Department of Commerce says they will prohibit use of WeChat and TikTok’s application codes, functions, or services within the U.S.
Additionally, they are prohibiting internet servers from hosting the apps, along with content delivery networks or peer-to-peer networks that enable the function or optimization of WeChat or TikTok.
The apps will be prohibited from stores like Google Play or the Apple Store, and WeChat’s payment and fund transfer features will also be banned.
Most provisions of the Department of Commerce’s order come into effect on Sunday September 20 for WeChat, and will fully take effect on November 12 for TikTok.
The order has left users of the apps considering loopholes such as VPN (virtual private network) that would allow them to mask their location.
On Twitter, many users said they would be using VPNs with Canadian IP addresses.
“In the future, when TikTok updates, you’ll need to set your VPN to Canada, then download updates,” said one user.
After you download #TikTok, download a VPN.
In the future, when TikTok updates, you’ll need to set your VPN to Canada, then download updates. If you have an iPhone, you’ll need to create an Apple ID to use because your iPhone knows you’re in America.🐮#tiktokban https://t.co/1fotMnrxi7
— Devin Nunes’ cow 🐮 (@DevinCow) September 18, 2020
However, it remains unclear given the scope of the orders if this technique would work. Internet Service Providers could potentially block access to VPNs under the new restrictions.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told the Huffington Post in July that the federal government was not considering bans on either app.