“We invite Facebook and Instagram to publicly join our challenge and support our litigation,” Miss Pappas said. “This is a moment to put aside our competition and focus on core principles like freedom of expression and due process of law.”
The Commerce Department on Friday accused both WeChat and TikTok of being “active participants in China’s civil-military fusion.” It said that they collect “vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories.”
Friday’s announcement included greater restrictions on WeChat than on TikTok, which effectively throttle its service. This includes blocking data hosting and content caching, which makes the app slower and difficult to use. While WeChat will still be technically usable, most users will struggle to communicate on the app after Sunday night. It is likely that the same restrictions will be imposed upon TikTok if a deal is not worked out before the November deadline.
A WeChat spokesman said: “The restrictions announced today are unfortunate, but given our desire to provide ongoing services to our users in the US – for whom WeChat is an important communication tool – we will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the US ways to achieve a long-term solution.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said the order was a violation of American’s First Amendment rights and “harms the privacy and security of millions of existing TikTok and WeChat users in the United States by blocking software updates, which can fix vulnerabilities and make the apps more secure”.
Wilbur Ross, US Commerce Secretary, said: “Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party.
“At the President’s direction, 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 US laws and regulations.”
Microsoft had planned to purchase the company’s US operations, but Oracle emerged last week as the leading contender to partner with TikTok to ease regulatory concerns.
President Donald Trump has tried to engineer a sale of TikTok to American investors, stating that the treasury should get a cut of the deal.
Spokesmen from Apple and Google did not respond to a request for comment.