But you can all relax. The executive order that Trump just signed does indeed significantly curtail speech, blocking U.S. users from downloading TikTok and WeChat. But your games are safe. For now.
The very very weird situation is this: Trump has decided that he does not like certain Chinese companies, including ByteDance (owner of TikTok) and a company called TenCent, and so he just signed an executive order banning “any transaction by any person” involving those companies, which would likely include downloading them from Apple or Google’s marketplace.
You are probably already familiar with TikTok — it’s one of those “kids today” apps mostly used by youngsters — and while you might not recognize the name TenCent, you’re probably familiar with the game companies that it’s invested in, such as Riot Games, Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, and many more.
To be sure, there are plenty of reasons to dislike TikTok, and not just because you’re resentful that you’re not young anymore. The app does a ton of spying on users, slurping up absurd amount of data, and according to at least some reports, passing it along to the Chinese government. (Not too different from how American apps gather tons of data on you that the U.S. government can access.) TikTok also banned LGBTQ+ content, and blocked videos from users who appeared to be disabled or fat.
So now Trump has blocked transactions involving both companies, part of what he says is a “national emergency.” (In other news, 159,984 Americans have died in a pandemic so far.) The clumsily-worded executive order seemed to apply to a wide range of games, which would be particularly devastating here in Seattle since a lot of money flows from TenCent into our economy — not just with the large game companies, but down into smaller subsidiaries.
But now the White House has clarified that it only applies to the chat app WeChat and to TikTok. Whew. What a relief. Sure, Republicans are trying to cut off two major communication networks just weeks before a national election, but hey at least we’ve still got our games.