People in the United States rushed to download TikTok and WeChat after the Commerce Department announced plans to restrict access to both apps starting Sunday.
The Trump administration’s executive orders against the two Chinese-owned apps are set to take effect Sunday. National security concerns have long fueled policymakers’ reservations about both apps.
TikTok downloads rose 12% to 247,000 in the US on Friday, compared to Thursday, according to preliminary estimates from Sensor Tower, which tracks mobile apps.
WeChat reached 10,000 installs on Friday, up 150% from the previous day. That’s the most downloads the app has seen in a day since October 2019, according to Sensor Tower.
WeChat’s rank among all free iPhone apps in the US climbed to number 100 as of noon on Friday, up from number 1,385 in the early morning, Sensor Tower data showed. The firm said this is the first time WeChat has ranked in the top 500 so far this year. Many people rely on WeChat as the main way of keeping in touch with family and friends in China.
Anyone who has already downloaded TikTok or WeChat will still be able to use the apps — if they’re already on their phone. But at midnight between Sunday and Monday, both apps are likely to vanish from US app stores, including those operated by Apple and Google.
However, even if you downloaded the app on your phone prior to the deadline, you won’t be able to receive security patches or other updates, which could cause outages or glitches within the app in the future.
For months, the Trump administration has claimed that TikTok is a risk to national security because of its Chinese ownership. The administration has alleged its parent company ByteDance could be required to hand over TikTok’s user data to the Chinese government, compromising the safety and privacy of US users. TikTok has repeatedly said that it stores data outside of China and that it would refuse any request by Beijing for data about US users.
In a statement Friday, TikTok said that it disagreed with and was disappointed by the Trump administration’s announcement. “Our community of 100 million US users love TikTok because it’s a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection,” the company said, “and we’re committed to protecting their privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”
Tencent, which owns WeChat, called the restrictions outlined by the Commerce Department “unfortunate.”
“Following the initial executive order on August 6 we have engaged in extensive discussions with the US government, and have put forward a comprehensive proposal to address its concerns,” Tencent said in a statement Friday. “…(G)iven 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.”