The move, to be implemented Sunday night, comes amid rising US-China tensions and efforts by the Trump administration to engineer a sale of TikTok to American investors.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement said;
The Chinese Communist Party has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US.
The initiative would ban WeChat, an app with massive use among Chinese speakers, and TikTok from the online marketplaces operated by Apple and Google.
However, while WeChat will effectively be shut down in the US from Sunday night, existing TikTok users will be able to continue using the app until November 12 — when it would also face a full ban on its US operations.
TikTok’s brand of short and creative videos has become hugely popular, especially among young people, with 100 million users in the US alone — and its use has further soared among teens stuck at home through the coronavirus pandemic.
As at Sunday night, Ross told Fox news, TikTok users will not have access to improved apps, updated apps, upgraded apps, or maintenance.
So if that were to continue over a long period of time there might be a gradual degradation of services. But the basic TikTok will stay intact until November 12th.
If there’s not a deal by November 12th under the provisions of the old order, then TikTok would be, for all practical purposes, shut down.
The Commerce Department said if concerns over TikTok were resolved before then, the order may be lifted.
Owned by Chinese giant Tencent, WeChat is widely used among the Chinese diaspora to keep in touch with people back home.
The US ban on WeChat has potential for disrupting the widely used application, but does not affect its service in China where the app is much more widely used.
The clampdown follows through on a threat by President Donald Trump, who has claimed Chinese tech operations may be used for spying.
It also ramps up the pressure on TikTok parent ByteDance to conclude a deal to sell all or part of TikTok to allay US security concerns.
A deal which appeared to be taking shape would allow Silicon Valley giant Oracle to become the tech partner for TikTok, but some US lawmakers have objected to allowing ByteDance to keep a stake.
If a planned partnership between US tech firm Oracle and ByteDance is agreed and approved by President Trump, the app will not be banned.