Updated: Sep 16, 2020
On August 6th, 2020, Trump signed an executive order banning the use of WeChat and Tiktok, two apps owned by Chinese companies, claiming they were a national security threat to the US. This ban would take effect 45 days after the date of the order. While most people know that this order applies to Tiktok, a popular video-sharing app, this order also happens to apply to another app called WeChat. Wechat is the main form of messaging and social media in China. Its users can message, video call, share posts, and even shop and pay on the platform. WeChat has over 1 billion users as of January 2019, including 19 million in the US alone.
Trump’s ban of WeChat will especially affect those that use the app to communicate with their family back in China. WeChat is extremely important to many Chinese families living in the US because it is the only form of contact they have with their mainland Chinese relatives. American-based social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are banned in China, leaving WeChat as the only method of communication between families for messaging and video calling. For me, it’s the only way I can call or see my aging grandparents. This has proved to be especially vital during the pandemic with the travel bans in place.
According to the executive order, the only way to keep WeChat and Tiktok legal is for the Chinese parent companies, Tencent and Bytedance, to sell their respective products. Microsoft is currently interested in buying Tiktok from Bytedance, but since WeChat is so vital to the Chinese economy, Tencent will most likely refuse to sell their product.
By banning WeChat, the Trump administration is dividing families and creating global animosity. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has accused Trump of violating the First Amendment through this ban. By signing this executive order, the Trump administration takes its classic authoritarian stance by controlling the flow of information, a move that could fracture its own US citizens, international relations, and economies.
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