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U.S. Blocks Downloads of TikTok, WeChat, Starting Sunday

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So starting this Sunday, the mobile apps TikTok and WeChat will be banned from U.S. app stores. That was the announcement from the U.S. Commerce Department today. The Chinese-owned apps have been the target of the Trump administration. They say the apps collect data from American users that could be accessed by the Chinese government. A sale of TikTok has been in the works, but so far, no deal has been finalized. And let's turn to NPR's Bobby Allyn, who's been following this story. Good morning, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: So, I mean, some, like, millions of people use these apps in the United States, right? So what exactly is that going to mean for them on Sunday?

ALLYN: Yeah. So we've been hearing a lot about the TikTok ban, right? I feel like it's in the headlines quite a bit. Well, here it is. And this is basically what it looks like. So TikTok is going to be banned from app stores. You know, that's where you go on your iPhone or Android and download the app. Well, you're not going to be able to download it anymore. That's a huge blow for TikTok. You know, it's one of the most popular apps in the world right now. Now, if you already have the app, as 100 million Americans do, updates are going to stop. And that could mean it could slow down or it could get really buggy. But, you know, if you're hearing this and you love or your kids love making lip syncing and dance videos on TikTok, you already have it on your phone, it's not going to, like, disappear, but it's going to get a lot more difficult for the company to maintain that. And you might notice that as a user.

GREENE: Wow. OK. So it might not change immediately, but you're really going to start noticing as time goes on when you can't do those updates or anything.

ALLYN: Exactly. Yep.

GREENE: So in making this announcement, did the Commerce Department give any more details about these national security concerns that are really at the heart of all this?

ALLYN: In short, no. The Commerce Department says, you know, this shows the Trump administration will do everything in its power to protect Americans from threats from the Chinese Communist Party. Now, whether TikTok actually poses a threat is another matter entirely. The company, for its part, says it doesn't share U.S. user data with China and that all decisions about Americans' data is made by a team led in the U.S. But, you know, TikTol says it can also share data with its Beijing parent company ByteDance. And the Trump administration has long said if China comes knocking on TikTok's door and asks for Americans' data, they will have to provide it under Chinese law. So even though we don't have any example of that actually happening, the White House says the mere possibility of it is enough to crack down on TikTok. And here's the crackdown on TikTok.

GREENE: I mean, you mention we've seen these headlines, and a lot of the speculation has been whether an American company could take over the domestic operations of TikTok - hasn't happened yet. Is there still time, were that to happen? I mean, could this ban in theory go away and TikTok users could jump back on and get those updates and get the app if they don't have it?

ALLYN: Yeah. Well, first, I have to say the TikTok deal is just like the deal that will never end (laughter). It's just been dragging on and dragging on and dragging on. Yeah. So the current state of play on the TikTok sale is this software company, Oracle, with some backing from Walmart, of all places, appears to be the top bidder. And I've been in touch with folks who are close to the negotiations, and it seems to be a key sticking point here is who will have a majority stake in the company? And I'm hearing the latest proposal says that Oracle and Walmart will have the majority stake. And why is that important? Because the question is who will have the final say at the end of the day - Oracle, this U.S. company, or ByteDance in Beijing? And, you know, the Trump administration - and President Trump has the final say here, and he has insisted that if Oracle does not have the final say, that national security concerns and the privacy of Americans will not be protected. So we just got to see how this is going to unfold, but the president is giving parties until November to figure this out. And until then, TikTok could get more rickety in everyone's phones.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Bobby Allyn. Bobby, thanks so much.

ALLYN: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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