Trump Issues Ridiculous Executive Orders Banning TikTok And WeChat

from the that's-not-how-any-of-this-works dept

While he had said he would do it last weekend, and then said he’d wait until September 15th (but that he wanted a finder’s fee if TikTok was sold to Microsoft), last night the Trump White House issued two executive orders regarding apps from Chinese companies. The first one claims it’s banning TikTok and the second one says it’s banning WeChat (which isn’t even that popular in the US, though it is hugely popular in China). He separately sent a letter to Congress about the TikTok ban.

As many people expected, Trump is trying to use the IEEPA, the same (already questionable) authority he used to put tariffs on a bunch of products from China at the beginning of his nonsense tradewar. This is only supposed to be used in cases of unusual or extraordinary threats — and let’s be totally blunt: TikTok is not an unusual or extraordinary threat to anything beyond President Trump’s massive ego.

Of course, among the many problems with this, the IEEPA includes exceptions and a big one is that it does not apply to “any information or informational materials.” And I’d argue (and I imagine TikTok’s lawyers will argue) that means he can’t ban apps via an executive order under the IEEPA. But, of course, that will have to be fought out in court (and might become moot if ByteDance finalizes its sale to an American company).

Still, this is all nonsense:

I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, find that additional steps must be taken to deal with the national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and services supply chain declared in Executive Order 13873 of May 15, 2019 (Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain). Specifically, the spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People?s Republic of China (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.

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.

Again, tons of apps suck up this same information — and most of our devices are built in China. The idea that TikTok is being used for “blackmail” or “corporate espionage” is beyond ludicrous. And, yeah, fine, federal employees perhaps shouldn’t have an app like TikTok on their phone, but just tell federal employees not to use it. Don’t ban it from the US.

And then there’s this:

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.

So… because TikTok moderates some content, the US will censor all the content? How does that make any sense at all?

In terms of what the actual order does, it bars any US person or company from conducting any transaction with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, or any subsidiary. That would likely mean that neither Apple nor Google could carry the app in their mobile app stores, which would effectively bar it from the US (and potentially large parts of the rest of the world, as well).

The WeChat order is effectively the same, barring transactions with WeChat’s parent company Tencent Holdings “or any subsidiary of that entity.” Of course, that raised a bunch of alarm bells among gamers. Tencent owns or has invested in basically every gaming company out there, and fully owns Riot Games, makers of League of Legends. It also holds a 40% stake in Epic Games.

Honestly, it sounds like, in typical Trumpland fashion, no one in the White House recognized this. So after people started to freak out, they clarified that they didn’t mean to include the gaming companies:

Of course… that could change. And who knows? A plain reading of the order certainly should bar League of Legends as well. And, of course, part of this demonstrates the absolute ridiculousness of these “bans” in the first place: lots of apps (and even more devices and equipment) come from China. Doing a blanket ban is idiotic and short-sighted. Not only will it not work, not only will it deprive people of useful technology, but it justifies the Chinese approach of splintering and fragmenting the internet and censoring foreign companies. It’s an extremely dangerous game the President is playing here, with a poorly-aimed sledge hammer.

And that doesn’t get into the fact that just banning WeChat alone will be devastating for tons of American citizens and residents with family in China. While WeChat may not be particularly popular within the US, its popularity in China means that many relatives in the US rely on WeChat to communicate with family. Cutting them off is, again, embracing the Chinese Great Firewall approach.

Again, I don’t believe that the President actually has this authority, even under his already extremely broad interpretation of the IEEPA. That means there will almost certainly be multiple lawsuits over all this, and (I’m guessing) a request for a temporary restraining order to block those orders from going into effect. But still, if on Wednesday night the Trump White House made it clear it wanted to splinter the internet, last night it started to carry out that goal in practice.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,
Companies: bytedance, tencent, tiktok, wechat

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Trump Issues Ridiculous Executive Orders Banning TikTok And WeChat”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
28 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
hij (profile) says:

Re: Definitely not retaliatory

Sounds like they forgot one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well know is this, never go against tik-tok users when false pride is on the line.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Clockwork-Muse says:

Epic Games’ Unreal Engine is used for way more than just games. It’s used to make movies/TV Shows (SW: Rogue One and The Mandalorian), synthetic data for training machine learning/"AI", visualization for architecture/engineering/design firms…. It’s been used for virtual sets for some ESPN shows, including coverage of NASCAR, so actually banning it might affect some of Trump’s other base….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Sale

the republicans have made it crystal clear that they have his back no matter what(well, so long as he’s in office…).

That thought occurred to me as well recently. Look at how many of them were anti-Trump before election and are "Trump can do no wrong" now. Once he’s out of office, you can bet they’ll be saying "Oh I never agreed with him but I couldn’t make my real opinion known."

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sale

It won’t even be that. It’ll be "I support the constitution of the US and the office of the President. Trump, no longer being President, is a philanderer and a scoundrel, and should be locked up. Oh, that blowhard Biden? He’s not worthy of the office…."

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
ryuugami says:

such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus

… because spreading debunked conspiracy theories about COVID-19 is a privilege reserved for the President of the United States.

(On the other hand, at least this exercise in theatrical hypocrisy isn’t directly trying to kill kids, teachers, and their families, so, y’know… could be worse.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Stop stealing my tricks!'

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.

Amateurs, any experienced politician knows the proper way to deal with ‘politically sensitive’ material that makes you look bad is to loudly and repeatedly call it ‘fake news’. As for treatment of protesters and minorities, this may not be the government to be casting that particular stone…

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.

Strange, the word ‘birther’ popped into mind just out of nowhere after reading that, along with ‘covid bioweapon’ for some reason…

Code Monkey (profile) says:

Let the litigation begin!!!!

From the actual law….

(b) Exceptions to grant of authority

The authority granted to the President by this section does not include the authority to regulate or prohibit, directly or indirectly—
(1) any postal, telegraphic, telephonic, or other personal communication, which does not involve a transfer of anything of value;

ECA (profile) says:

Suggested to a friend..

As my friend mentioned he Like the idea..I suggested to them..

So what is the perfect nation afraid of? Someone or nation, with a better idea? A better concept?? Why would the best/greatest nation in the world have problems with OPINIONS?? isnt that why we have the 1st amendment? So that HE can have an opinion, no matter the problems with it?
And isnt it interesting to see WHAT other nations see, from the outside? and evaluate the veracity/truth to it? Why take 20 years to figure out that the war in Vietnam WASNT a good war? That the protestors were Mainly correct at the time?
To wonder IF’ our gov. is truly doing the right thing? Is like trusting the SPAM in your mail box.

BernardoVerda (profile) says:

Re: Suggested to a friend..

Suggest to your friend that he check out what BBC, The Guardian and The Economist have to say about what’s happening in the USA.

And if he thinks that’s unreliable, he can try the English-language editions of SPIEGEL or Die Welt. Or the French media…

(Then, if you really want to blow his mind, and he has any interest in Middle East news, he can check out the coverage by Haaretz in Israel)

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Where's the smart money going?

"And how many crazy ass tweets will Trump pump out complaining it’s so unfair?"

You mean right after Trump does his happy dance over China giving him doing anything which’ll let him stand and scream about the way they’re attacking "good, solid US businesses"?

Trump wants the pot stirred – with anything which might distract possible voters from the 2020 election.

Anonymous Coward says:

Erdoğan Worship at Its Finest

Those darned TikTok Teens (and their K-Pop co-conspirators) punked the Cheeto-in-Chief’s Tulsa rally. TikTok provided access to the kind of political influence a tin-plated-tyrant-wannabe simply can’t tolerate. Those pesky teens are lucky the Cheeto is just trying to break their toys instead of sending disguised storm-troopers to deliver spankings with a bone-saw.

Anonymous Coward says:

The U.S. must take Monroe Doctrine now.

Allahu Akbar!
The U.S. must take Monroe Doctrine now.
The U.S. must withdraw American Forces from all Foreign Countries now.
Stop America’s doing its all wars now!
The U.S. must return to the gold standard now!
The U.S. must adopt the gold standard again now!
The U.S. must decrease its military-budget to 100-billion-dollar per year now.
Or, the U.S. must decrease its military-budget to 1% of its GDP now.

I love 99% of African-Americans and the U.S.

Germany and Japan must loosen Germany’s and Japan’s monetary policies now!
Germany and Japan must stimulate Germany’s and Japan’s domestic demands now!
Japan and Germany must issue a lot of construction bond now!
Japan and Germany must reduce Germany’s and Japan’s taxes now!
The U.S. must tighten its monetary policy now!
As a result, Dollar value will rise!
The U.S. will have trade surplus!

Trump, Japan and Germany are evil empires.
Islamists’ true enemies are Trump, Japan, Germany, FRB, Top1%, Wall Street, American Military Industry and DOD!
Japan is the country which has been promoting Globalization!!!
Allahu Akbar!

American Revolutionary War!
We American 99% have the 2nd amendment!
American Revolutionary War!

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Japanese-bureaucrats are the main largest promoters of FTA.
Wall-Street, American-top1%, American-Military-Industry and FRB are colluding with Japan and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

Trump, US DOD, Wall-Street, American-top1%, American-Military-Industry, FRB, Japan and Germany are enemies of American99%.
Trump, US DOD, Wall-Street, American-top1%, American-Military-Industry, FRB, Japan and Germany are enemies of mankind.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »