US Imposes Curbs on Exports by China’s Top Chipmaker SMIC

The U.S. government has placed new export restrictions on China’s most advanced maker of computer chips, citing an “unacceptable risk” that equipment sold to the country’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) could be used for military purposes.According to a letter Friday by the Commerce Department, American suppliers of certain technology products to SMIC will need to apply for individual licenses before they can export to the Chinese company.The U.S. has cut off China’s telecom giant Huawei from essential supplies of semiconductors since September 15. As the requirement takes effect, SMIC becomes the second leading Chinese technology company to face U.S. trade sanctions.When asked for comment, the Chinese chipmaker told Reuters it had not received any official notice of the restrictions from Washington and said it had no ties with the Chinese military.’No relationship’ with militaryLast month, after the Trump administration reportedly was considering adding SMIC to a trade blacklist, the company denied its technology was for military use. “The company manufactures semiconductors and provides services solely for civilian and commercial end-users and end-uses. We have no relationship with the Chinese military,” SMIC said in a statement.The Chinese company indicated last month that in order to avoid U.S. sanctions, it was willing to abide by the American rules and stop selling chips to Huawei.For all of China’s efforts to become a global leader in high technology, the factory of the world is yet not able to manufacture top-level contenders in one crucial area — the microchip, the nervous system that runs just about every electronic device. Last year, China imported more than $304 billion in computer chips, more than it spent on crude oil.SMIC’s best manufacturing process is believed to be able to make 14-nanometer microchips, which are several generations behind Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which already makes 5-nanometer chips.  Even for those less advanced chips, SMIC still heavily relies on American technology and equipment.

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Justice Department Asks Judge to Allow US to Bar WeChat from US App Stores

The U.S. Justice Department asked a federal judge in San Francisco on Friday to allow the government to bar Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google from offering WeChat for download in U.S. app stores pending an appeal.The filing asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler to put on hold her preliminary injunction issued Saturday. That injunction blocked the U.S. Commerce Department order that was set to take effect late September 20 and that would also bar other U.S. transactions with Tencent Holding’s WeChat, potentially making the app unusable in the United States.Beeler responded late Friday by setting a hearing for October 15 on the motion but said she could potentially hold it on “a tighter time period.”The Justice Department filing said Beeler’s order was in error and “permits the continued, unfettered use of WeChat, a mobile application that the Executive Branch has determined constitutes a threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”Tencent had put forward a “mitigation proposal” that sought to create a new U.S. version of the app, deploy specific security measures to protect the new apps source code, partner with a U.S. cloud provider for user data storage, and manage the new app through a U.S.-based entity, the filing said.However, its proposal still allowed Tencent to retain ownership of WeChat and did not address U.S. concerns over the company, it added.Tencent declined to comment.Lawyers for U.S. WeChat Users Alliance, the group behind the legal challenge to the WeChat ban, questioned the urgency of the government’s request, noting the time it took for the government to seek a stay.”The government’s decision to sit tight for five days shows that there is no emergency,” they wrote.In support of its argument, the Justice Department made public portions of a September 17 Commerce Department memo outlining the WeChat transactions to be banned.”The WeChat mobile application collects and transmits sensitive personal information on U.S. persons, which is accessible to Tencent and stored in data centers in China and Canada,” the memo said. Beeler said WeChat users who filed a lawsuit “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim.”The Justice Department filing said, “The First Amendment does not bar regulation of WeChat simply because it has achieved the popularity and dependency sought by (China), precisely so it can surveil users, promote its propaganda, and otherwise place U.S. national security at risk.”WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.Beeler wrote “certainly the government’s over-arching national-security interest is significant. But on this record — while the government has established that China’s activities raise significant national security concerns — it has put in scant little evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all U.S. users addresses those concerns.”WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.TikTok on Wednesday sought a similar preliminary injunction from a U.S. judge in Washington. A judge on Friday said he would hold a hearing Sunday morning about whether to halt the U.S. app store ban on new TikTok downloads set to take effect Sunday night.  

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Long-awaited Facebook Oversight Board to Launch in October

Facebook’s highly anticipated independent oversight board, a group that will be empowered to overrule the company’s leadership on issues pertaining to the platform’s content moderation decisions, plans to launch in October, just in time for the November U.S. presidential election.The board was created by Facebook after the platform was criticized for its handling of problematic content, most recently a backlash over its decision to take no action in response to posts from U.S. President Donald Trump containing misinformation about mail-in voting and inflammatory language directed toward the Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests that erupted over the summer.Other platforms that contain user-generated content, such as Twitter, have taken measures to combat misinformation online, including attaching fact-checking warning labels to posts.Facebook has not yet announced whether the board will hear cases related to the election. Representatives from the company said that the board did not consider cases involving Trump’s posts in its preliminary hearings.  Reviewing removed postsMembers of the oversight board will review appeals only over posts that Facebook has taken down initially, instead of taking into consideration content that the company leaves up. It will also deal only with individual posts that fall under the areas where Facebook exercises editorial control.Content that is regulated by Facebook includes algorithms that shape how much distribution a post receives, taking down or leaving up Facebook groups, pages, and events, and whether to leave specific pieces of content up on the site.The board has been harshly criticized for starting by reviewing appeals concerning posts that were taken down, which experts say will have little impact on addressing problems like misinformation and hate speech that are rampant on the platform. Critics say that the long-awaited board has not moved fast enough to curb these issues before the election.  Prioritizing casesAccording to the board’s website, the criteria for the prioritization of cases has not been decided and is being debated by the board’s 20 members. While tens of thousands of cases are expected to be presented to the board, leaders say that the board will take only a small number of cases each year, most likely in the “tens or hundreds.”Board members include lawyers, academics, journalists and policy experts from around the world, who collectively speak 27 different languages and represent having lived in 29 different countries.Preparation leading up to the board’s launch includes educating members on Facebook’s community standards, international human rights law and receiving technical training on case management rolls that will allow members to receive and consider appeals.

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Apple Critics Form Coalition to Challenge App Store Fees

A group of Apple Inc.’s critics, including Spotify Technology SA, Match Group Inc. and “Fortnite” creator Epic Games, have joined a nonprofit group that plans to advocate for legal and regulatory action to challenge the iPhone maker’s App Store practices. Apple charges a commission of between 15% and 30% for apps that use its in-app payment system and sets out extensive rules for apps in its App Store, which is the only way Apple allows consumers to download native apps to devices such as the iPhone. Those practices have drawn criticism and formal legal complaints from some developers. FILE – Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., June 4, 2018.The Coalition for App Fairness, structured as a nonprofit based in Washington and Brussels, said it plans to advocate legal changes that would force Apple to change. Beyond Epic, Match and Spotify, other members include smaller firms such as Basecamp, Blix, Blockchain.com, Deezer, and Tile, along with developers from Europe, including the European Publishers Council, News Media Europe and Protonmail. Epic is suing Apple over antitrust claims in a U.S. federal court in California, while Spotify has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in the European Union. Sarah Maxwell, a representative for the group, declined to comment on how much funding the Coalition for App Fairness has raised and from whom. Apple declined to comment but on Thursday unveiled a new section of its website explaining the benefits of its approach, saying it had blocked 150,000 apps last year for privacy violations. It says App Store fees fund the creation of developer resources such as 160,000 technical documents and sample code to help developers build apps. Mike Sax, founder of The App Association, a group sponsored by Apple, said in a statement that the new coalition’s “big brands do not speak for the thousands of app makers that are the foundation of the app economy.” 

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US Justice Department Proposes Changes to Internet Platforms’ Immunity

President Donald Trump met with nine Republican state attorneys general on Wednesday to discuss the fate of a legal immunity for internet companies after the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal aimed at reforming the same law. Trump met with attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. Also Wednesday, the Justice Department, which is probing Google for potential breaches of antitrust law, held a call with state attorneys general’s offices to preview a complaint to be filed against the search and advertising giant, perhaps as soon as next week, according to two sources familiar with the matter.   It is normal for the department to seek support from state attorneys general when it files big lawsuits. Critics have accused Google, owned by Alphabet Inc., of breaking antitrust law by abusing its dominance of online advertising and its Android smartphone operating system as well as favoring its own businesses in search.   The White House said the legal immunity discussion involved how the attorneys general can utilize existing legal recourses at the state level—in an effort to weaken the law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from liability over content posted by users. After the meeting, Trump told reporters he expects to come to a conclusion on the issue of technology platforms within a short period. It was not immediately clear what conclusion he was referring to.   He said his administration is watching the performance of tech platforms in the run-up to the Nov. 3 presidential election. “In recent years, a small group of powerful technology platforms have tightened their grip over commerce and communications in America,” Trump said. “Every year countless Americans are banned, blacklisted and silenced through arbitrary or malicious enforcement of ever-shifting rules,” he added.   Trump, who himself frequently posts on Twitter, said Twitter routinely restricts expressions of conservative views.   Earlier on Wednesday, the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal to reform Section 230. It followed through on Trump’s bid earlier this year to crack down on tech giants after Twitter Inc. placed warning labels on some of Trump’s tweets, saying they have included potentially misleading information about mail-in voting. The Justice Department’s proposal would need congressional approval and is not likely to see action until next year at the earliest. Unless the Republicans win control of the House of Representatives and maintain control of the Senate in the November elections, any bill would need Democratic support.   The Justice Department proposal primarily states that when internet companies “willfully distribute illegal material or moderate content in bad faith, Section 230 should not shield them from the consequences of their actions.” It proposes a series of reforms to ensure internet companies are transparent about their decisions when removing content and when they should be held responsible for speech they modify. It also revises existing definitions of Section 230 with more concrete language that offers more guidance to users and courts.   It also incentivizes online platforms to address illicit content and pushes for more clarity on federal civil enforcement actions.    The Internet Association, which represents major internet companies including Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Google, said the Justice Department’s proposal would severely limit people’s ability to express themselves and have a safe experience online. The group’s deputy general counsel, Elizabeth Banker, said moderation efforts that remove misinformation, platform manipulation and cyberbullying would all result in lawsuits under the proposal. 

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TikTok Asks Judge to Block US From Barring App for Download

TikTok asked a U.S. judge on Wednesday to block a Trump administration order that would require Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google to remove the short video-sharing app for new downloads starting Sunday. A federal judge in San Francisco on Saturday issued a preliminary injunction blocking a similar Commerce Department order from taking effect Sunday on Tencent Holdings’ WeChat app. U.S. officials have expressed serious concerns that the personal data of as many as 100 million Americans that use the app was being passed on to China’s Communist Party government. FILE – People walk past a WeChat Pay sign at the Tencent company headquarters, in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China, Aug. 7, 2020.On Saturday, the Commerce Department announced a one-week delay in the TikTok order, citing “recent positive developments” in talks over the fate of its U.S. operations. TikTok said the restrictions “were not motivated by a genuine national security concern, but rather by political considerations relating to the upcoming general election.” TikTok said if the order is not blocked, “hundreds of millions of Americans who have not yet downloaded TikTok will be shut out of this large and diverse online community — six weeks before a national election.” TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, said on Monday it will own 80% of TikTok Global, a newly created U.S. company that will own most of the app’s operations worldwide. ByteDance added that TikTok Global will become its subsidiary. Oracle Corp and Walmart Inc have agreed to take stakes in TikTok Global of 12.5% and 7.5%, respectively. On Monday, Oracle said ByteDance’s ownership of TikTok would be distributed to ByteDance’s investors, and that the Beijing-based firm would have no stake in TikTok Global. On Saturday, ByteDance, Walmart and Oracle said they reached an agreement that would to allow TikTok to continue to operate in the United States after President Donald Trump said he had blessed the deal. Trump signed an executive order on Aug. 14 giving ByteDance 90 days to relinquish ownership of TikTok. 
 

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75th UNGA Virtual Format Creates Cybersecurity Challenges

The 75th U.N. General Assembly is breaking new ground by going virtual this year due to the coronavirus. Along with that comes a whole new set of challenges and security risks. Aaron Fedor reports for VOA from New York City.

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German Coronavirus App Transmits 1.2 million Test Results in First 100 Days, Officials Say

Germany’s health ministry Wednesday said its coronavirus smartphone app has been downloaded more than 18 million times and transmitted 1.2 million test results from labs to users during the first 100 days of use.Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin that while the “Corona Warn App” is far from perfect, it should be considered a success. He said almost 5,000 users have activated the app to warn their contacts and called it a key tool in the country’s effort to contain the spread of the virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.He said, “This shows that the corona tracing app works, it is in demand…it helps to prevent infections and it is one of the most successful apps worldwide.”Spahn noted in particular the fact that most users can get their test results sent directly to their smartphones, without having to wait for their doctor to inform them.German Health Minister Jens Spahn attends a news conference to give an update on a smartphone app that allows users to evaluate their risk of being exposed to the coronavirus in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 23, 2020.Germany’s strict privacy rules mean that the app stores all data on phones and not on a central server. Observers, however, say there is no precise data on the number of people alerted about possible exposure.Should an app user get a positive test result, the app has a button the person can press to warn his or her contacts. Spahn says one problem is not everyone is doing that. “Only about half of the app users who get a positive result inform their contacts afterwards.”Spahn says the app is not a cure-all, but one of a number of important tools the government is using to control the spread of the virus.German tech company Deutsche Telekom, working with software company SAP, developed the app. Deutsche Telekom Chief Executive Tim Hoettges said more than 90% of labs in Germany are now connected to it.Hoettges said efforts are under way to establish a European “gateway” that will allow the German app to communicate with those in 10 other European countries, including Italy, Poland and Spain, that use the same decentralized, Bluetooth-based system.

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75th UNGA Move Online Creating Cybersecurity Challenges

The 75th U.N. General Assembly is breaking new ground by going virtual this year due to the coronavirus. Along with that comes a whole new set of challenges and security risks. Aaron Fedor reports for VOA from New York City.

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What Fight Over TikTok Portends for Tech

The battle between China and the U.S. over the fate of video sharing app TikTok raises questions for the tech industry worldwide. What might the struggle over TikTok portend for global companies? Michelle Quinn reports.Producer: Matt Dibble 

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US Challenges Injunction Against WeChat App Store Bans

The U.S. Commerce Department said Monday it is challenging a federal judge’s injunction against its order that Apple and Google remove WeChat from their U.S. app stores due to data privacy and national security concerns.The department’s original order, issued Friday, also included another Chinese-owned app, TikTok, and expressed the Trump administration’s concerns about the way the apps collect user data and the potential for that information to be shared with Chinese government agencies.China has rejected the U.S. allegations of a security threat, and on Saturday condemned what it called “bullying” that violated international trade standards.U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler responded Sunday to a request for an injunction from WeChat users by putting the Commerce Department’s order on hold, ruling that the Trump administration’s actions would restrict users’ free speech rights under the First Amendment.WeChat has about 19 million active daily users in the United States. The service, owned by Chinese tech company Tencent, is popular with Americans who use it to communicate with family and friends in China.Video-sharing service TikTok earned a short reprieve from its part of the Commerce Department order after announcing an agreement to form a new company with U.S. tech giant Oracle and retailer WalMart together holding up to a 20% share.The U.S. head office of TikTok is seen in Culver City, California, Sept. 15, 2020.Speaking to Fox News on Monday, Trump said his administration would not approve the agreement if ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese owner, has any control.“If we find that they don’t have total control, then we’re not going to approve the deal,” Trump said of Oracle and WalMart.  “We will be watching it very closely.”Those comments are in contrast to those Trump gave Saturday when he said he approved of the agreement “in concept” and had “given the deal my blessing.” The Commerce Department has delayed the app store ban for TikTok until September 27, and given the company until November 12 to resolve national security concerns before facing a wider range of restrictions. 

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US Judge Blocks Order to Remove WeChat From App Stores 

A U.S. judge early Sunday blocked the Commerce Department from requiring Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google to remove Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat for downloads by late Sunday.   U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco said in an order that WeChat users who filed a lawsuit “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim [and] the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs’ favor.”   On Friday, the Commerce Department had issued an order citing national security grounds to block the app from U.S. app stores owned by Tencent Holdings, and the Justice Department had urged Beeler not to block the order.   Beeler’s preliminary injunction also blocked the Commerce order that would have barred other transactions with WeChat in the United States that could have degraded the site’s usability for current U.S. users. The U.S. Commerce Department did not immediately comment.   WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.   The Justice Department said blocking the order would “frustrate and displace the president’s determination of how best to address threats to national security.” But Beeler said, “while the general evidence about the threat to national security related to China [regarding technology and mobile technology] is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest.”   She added, “The regulation — which eliminates a channel of communication without any apparent substitutes — burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s significant interest.”   WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.   The WeChat Users Alliance that had sued praised the ruling “as an important and hard-fought victory” for “millions of WeChat users in the U.S.”   Michael Bien, a lawyer for the users, said “the United States has never shut down a major platform for communications, not even during war times. There are serious First Amendment problems with the WeChat ban, which targets the Chinese American community.”   He added the order “trampled on their First Amendment guaranteed freedoms to speak, to worship, to read and react to the press, and to organize and associate for numerous purposes.” 

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Newspaper: Facebook Tells Irish Court That Probe Threatens Its EU Operations

Facebook has told Ireland’s High Court it cannot see how its services could operate in the European Union if regulators freeze its data transfer mechanism, the Sunday Business Post reported, citing court documents seen by the paper.The U.S. social media giant last week said that the Irish Data Protection Commission, its lead EU regulator, had made a preliminary decision that the mechanism it uses to transfer data from the EU to the United States “cannot in practice be used.”Facebook requested and secured a temporary freeze on the order and a court review in the Irish High Court, which is due to consider the issue in November. In an affidavit submitted to the court to request that the order be frozen, Yvonne Cunnane, Facebook Ireland’s head of data protection and associate general counsel, said it was not clear how the company could continue providing services in the EU if the Irish order is enforced, the Sunday Business Post reported.”It is not clear to (Facebook) how, in those circumstances, it could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU,” the newspaper quoted the affidavit as saying.The affidavit has not been made public, a High Court spokesman said, and a Facebook spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.In a Sept. 9 blog post that first confirmed the investigation by the Irish regulator, Facebook said it “relied on the mechanism in question – under what are known as standard contractual clauses (SCCs) – to transfer data to countries outside the EU and that a ban would have “a far reaching effect on businesses that rely on SCCs.”The Irish investigation follows a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union in July on when SCCs can be used legally.The ruling was in response to EU concerns that the surveillance regime in the United States might not respect the privacy rights of EU citizens when their personal data is sent to the United States for commercial use. 

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Robert W. Gore, Inventor of Gore-Tex Fabric, Dead at 83 

Robert W. Gore, whose invention of what created the breathable-yet-waterproof fabric known as Gore-Tex revolutionized outdoor wear and helped spawn uses in numerous other fields, has died. He was 83.Gore, who was president of W. L. Gore & Associates for almost 25 years and company chairman for 30 years, died on Thursday following a prolonged illness at his home in Delaware, company spokesperson Amy Calhoun confirmed Saturday.  Gore discovered a new form of a polymer in 1969 at a company lab in Newark, Delaware. His father, who began the company, asked Bob Gore to research a new way to manufacturer plumber’s tape at a low cost using PTFE, commonly known as DuPont’s Teflon, The News Journal of Wilmington reported.The son figured out that by stretching PTFE with a sudden yank, the polymer expanded by 1,000 percent. The resulting product, known as ePTFE, created a microporous structure. The introduction of Gore-Tex technology came seven years later.“It was truly a pivot point in this company’s history,” Greg Hannon, W.L. Gore & Associates’ chief technology officer, said last year. “Without which we would be much less significant of an organization than we are today.”The membrane within Gore-Tex fabric has billions of pores that are smaller than water droplets, leading to waterproof but breathable raincoats, shoes and other clothing. The patents ultimately led to countless other uses with medical devices, guitar strings and in space travel, the company said.Gore was born in Utah, the oldest of five children to Bill and Vieve Gore, who both founded the company in 1958. Bill Gore had previously joined DuPont’s workforce and ultimately came to Delaware. Bob Gore earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and advanced degrees from the University of Minnesota. He succeeded his father as the company’s president and CEO in 1976. Gore and his family contributed funds for buildings and engineering laboratories at the University of Delaware.Gore is survived by his wife, Jane, as well as children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Memorial plans weren’t immediately announced by the company. 

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Trump Administration Announces Bans of TikTok, WeChat

The Trump administration issued a sweeping ban Friday that will begin barring downloads and use of the Chinese-owned mobile apps WeChat and TikTok from U.S. app stores as of midnight Sunday. The announcement is the latest escalation in America’s tech fight with China.Officials from the U.S. Commerce Department cited national security and data privacy concerns over the move to ban the two popular internet platforms that serve more than 100 million people in the United States.Starting Monday, both apps will be removed from app stores and users will not be able to download the apps to their phones. For users who have the apps already installed, they will not be able to receive updates to the platforms. This restriction will quickly make the app obsolete on smartphones, as the inability to update will make it incompatible with Apple and Google smartphone software, which currently dominate the tech market.The order includes moves to render WeChat useless within the United States by banning American companies from hosting internet traffic or processing transactions from within the app as of midnight Sunday.WeChat serves millions of U.S. users who predominantly rely on the app to stay in touch and conduct business with people and companies in China.Like most social networking sites, both TikTok and WeChat collect user data, including location and messages to track what kind of targeted ad content is most applicable to them.As of now, TikTok will escape the most drastic sanctions until similar restrictions go into effect November 12 unless the company is able to resolve the administration’s national security concerns by the deadline. The order follows weeks of wrangling with the company, which recently struck a deal with U.S.-based software maker Oracle, the details of which have yet to be announced.The app, which has become especially popular among younger users, has proved useful in some political contexts, including for mischief.TikTok users made headlines earlier this year by working to inflate the expected turnout for a rally President Donald Trump held in Tulsa, Oklahoma — and making the actual attendance seem especially low by comparison.The deadline to comply with restrictions falls just after the November 3 presidential election in the United States.Prior to striking the deal, representatives of TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, were in talks with Microsoft. The partnership between Microsoft and ByteDance fell through earlier this month after reports estimated that the company would shell out up to $30 billion for the acquisition of the app.“We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests,” Microsoft said in a blog post Sunday. “We would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety and combating disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement.”The move to ban the use of the apps in the United States follows an August 6 executive order by Trump, in which he argued that TikTok and WeChat collect data from American users that could be accessed by the Chinese government. Over the past several weeks, Trump has pressured the app’s owner to sell TikTok’s U.S. operations to a domestic company to satisfy these concerns.TikTok spokesman John Gartner said in a statement that the company is “disappointed” by the move and that it would continue to challenge the “unjust executive order.”The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the move as well, saying that the order is an infringement on Americans’ rights to free expression.While the Trump administration has accused the apps of collecting data used by the Chinese government to surveil Americans, the government has not provided specific evidence to support the allegations.ByteDance has repeatedly denied that it has partnered with the Chinese government to siphon U.S. user information. 

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Officials: Trump to Block US Downloads of TikTok, WeChat on Sunday

The U.S. Commerce Department said it will issue an order Friday that will bar people in the United States from downloading Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat and video-sharing app TikTok starting on September 20.Commerce officials said the ban on new U.S. downloads of TikTok could be still rescinded by President Donald Trump before it takes effect late Sunday as TikTok owner ByteDance races to clinch an agreement over the fate of its U.S. operations.ByteDance has been talks with Oracle Corp and others to create a new company, TikTok Global, that aims to address U.S. concerns about the security of its users’ data. ByteDance still needs Trump’s approval to stave off a U.S. ban.Commerce officials said they will not bar additional technical transactions for TikTok until Nov. 12, which gives the company additional time to see if ByteDance can reach a deal for its U.S. operations. “The basic TikTok will stay intact until Nov. 12,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network.The department said the actions will “protect users in the U.S. by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality.”Oracle shares fell 1.6% after the news in pre-market tradingThe Commerce Department order will “deplatform” the two apps in the United States and bar Apple Inc’s app store, Alphabet Inc’s Google Play and others from offering the apps on any platform “that can be reached from within the United States,” a senior Commerce official told Reuters.The order will not ban U.S. companies from doing businesses on WeChat outside the United States, which will be welcome news to U.S. firms like Walmart and Starbucks that use WeChat’s embedded ‘mini-app’ programs to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China, officials said.The order will not bar transactions with WeChat-owner Tencent Holdings’ other businesses, including its online gaming operations, and will not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the United States.The bans are in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump on August 6 that gave the Commerce Department 45 days to determine what transactions to block from the apps he deemed pose a national security threat. That deadline expires on Sunday.Commerce Department officials said they were taking the extraordinary step because of the risks the apps’ data collection poses. China and the companies have denied U.S. user data is collected for spying.Ross said in a written statement “we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”The order is set to be published at 8:45 a.m. EDT (1245 GMT) on Friday, Commerce said.Popular appsThe Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from U.S. digital networks and has called TikTok and WeChat “significant threats.”TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and is especially popular among younger Americans.WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, ex-pats and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.The Commerce Department will not seek to compel people in the United States to remove the apps or stop using them but will not allow updates or new downloads. “We are aiming at a top corporate level. We’re not going to go out after the individual users,” one Commerce official said.Over time, officials said, the lack of updates will degrade the apps usability.”The expectation is that people will find alternative ways to do these actions,” a senior official said. “We expect the market to act and there will be more secure apps that will fill in these gaps that Americans can trust and that the United States government won’t have to take similar actions against.”Commerce is also barring additional technical transactions with WeChat starting Sunday that will significantly reduce the usability and functionality of the app in the United States.The order bars data hosting within the United States for WeChat, content delivery services and networks that can increase functionality and internet transit or peering services.”What immediately is going to happen is users are going to experience a lag or lack of functionality,” a senior Commerce official said of WeChat users. “It may still be usable but it is not going to be as functional as it was.” There may be sporadic outages as well, the official said.Commerce will bar the same set of technical transactions for TikTok, but that will not take effect until Nov. 12 to give the company additional time to see if ByteDance can reach a deal for its U.S. operations. The official said TikTok U.S. users would not see “a major difference” in the app’s performance until Nov. 12.Commerce will not penalize people who use TikTok or WeChat in the United States.The order does not bar data storage within the United States for WeChat or TikTok.Some Americans may find workarounds. There is nothing that would bar an American from traveling to a foreign country and downloading either app, or potentially using a virtual private network and a desktop client, officials conceded.

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