US says proposed WeChat ban will not target users

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibek

WeChat users will not face civil or criminal penalties even if the United States bans the Chinese-owned messaging app through other actions next week, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

In August, President Donald Trump unveiled a proposed sweeping ban on US transactions with Tencent Holdings, owner of the popular mainland Chinese app. The executive order, which called WeChat and Bytedance’s short-video app TikTok “significant threats” to national security, followed stepped-up US efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is set to release regulations by Sunday clarifying what WeChat transactions will be prohibited.

WeChat users have filed a motion in US District Court in San Francisco seeking a preliminary injunction to bar the Trump administration from prohibiting the use of WeChat in the United States by individual users, businesses and groups. A hearing on the request is for Thursday.

The Justice Department responded in a filing on Wednesday that Ross does not plan to target persons or groups who only download or use WeChat to convey personal or business information and said they would not face criminal or civil penalties.

But the department added that “use of the app for such communications could be directly or indirectly impaired through measures targeted at other transactions.”

The WeChat users who sued said the order apparently prohibits “millions of WeChat users in the United States … from using the most popular social media space for Chinese speakers in the world.”

WeChat has been downloaded 19 million times in the United States, showed data from Sensor Tower, but in China, the app is ubiquitous as a medium for services, games and payments.

Trump’s order said WeChat “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users,” which “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”

Reuters

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.