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Trump targets TikTok, WeChat

ByteDance logo at the entrance to a ByteDance office in Beijing

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered sweeping restrictions against Chinese-owned social media stars TikTok and WeChat, which could strangle their ability to operate in the United States.

Trump’s executive order, which takes effect in 45 days, bars anyone under US jurisdiction from doing business with TikTok or WeChat’s owners.

It heaps pressure on ByteDance, TikTok’s parent, to close negotiations to sell to Microsoft and further escalates the Trump administration’s multi-front confrontation with Beijing.

Trump’s order cites a threat to “national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States” in taking aim at the companies.

“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,” the order contended.

Data from TikTok could potentially be used by China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers on people for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage, the order alleged.

The TikTok mobile app has been downloaded some 175 million times in the US and more than a billion times around the world.