Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Trump administration has escalated its threats to ban Chinese social media apps TikTok and WeChat within the US, issuing executive orders last week sanctioning them. The orders will ban “transactions” between US entities and the parent companies of TikTok and WeChat (respectively ByteDance and Tencent). They leave a lot of unanswered questions, but they’re a threatening development for the companies, thanks to presidents’ broad sanctions powers.

On August 6th, Trump declared TikTok and WeChat a “national emergency” because of real — but also politically convenientprivacy and security concerns. He invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which lets him ban transactions between US and foreign entities. This…

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