PHOTO COURTESY OF TIKTOK AND WECHAT Students worry over communication with family as the Trump administration and the Department of Commerce threaten to ban TikTok and WeChat.

TikTok’s, WeChat’s pending bans raise concerns

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Due to the Department of Commerce’s national security concerns, TikTok and WeChat downloads were scheduled to be banned in app stores on Sept. 20. However, through a judge ruling, the bans on both apps were denied until further notice. While this ruling provided temporary relief, student users expressed their uneasiness in regards to the future of the apps.

The ban intended to forbid hosting services that enabled WeChat to function on Sept. 20 and on Nov. 12. for TikTok. As a result, WeChat users would no longer be able to conduct financial transactions and may force internet service providers to block access to Internet traffic, ultimately preventing users to send messages. Although the ban was denied, a California judge received a request from the Trump administration to allow the ban for WeChat to proceed. 

“Most of my relatives live in China, so my family’s only way of communication is through WeChat,” junior Rachel Tam said. “If the ban follows through, it would be extremely difficult or impossible for my family to contact them because of China’s strict internet censorship. China banned most of the social media apps we use and international calls are too expensive.” 

Regarding TikTok, a federal judge allotted the Trump administration until Sept. 25 to postpone their ban on its downloads or defend the policy in a court hearing during the weekend. The restrictions set for Nov. 12 were not blocked, worrying TikTok users who had sought comfort from the app throughout the course of the pandemic. 

“I would be devastated if TikTok got banned,” senior Albert Vigil said. “It was one of my main sources of maintaining my sanity during quarantine because it allowed me to witness others facing the same circumstance as me.”

Many TikTok and WeChat users are seeking new alternatives such as WhatsApp and Tencent QQ to prepare for the possible ban. While the apps would not be deleted from users’ devices in the event the ban occurs, future updates or maintenance would be unavailable.  

“I have downloaded both apps in case they get banned,” sophomore Sarina Tapia said. “Though, I am worried that they might not work in the future because there is a high possibility that they will encounter problems in iOS and Android system updates to the point they would be unusable.” 

The Trump administration has been targeting Chinese-owned apps, primarily TikTok and WeChat, since late July. Trump claims that these apps could funnel American users’ personal data to the Chinese Communist Party, “potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

“I understand that Trump is trying to protect us, but I do not think that WeChat or TikTok is a threat,” freshman Mason Benetiz said. “China said Trump’s claims were false, and I believe China.”

Due to the constant developments, the future for WeChat and TikTok is uncertain. However, Oracle and Walmart are in the phase of purchasing TikTok. If the transaction is approved, TikTok will not be banned due to Oracle and Walmart being American-owned companies.

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