The United States' status as the hardest-hit country across the globe by COVID-19 touched a new milestone, with over 5 million confirmed coronavirus cases,
According to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the USA has so far confirmed 5,017,150 cases from the deadly virus and recorded 162,635 deaths.
The failure of the most powerful nation to contain the scourge has been met with astonishment and alarm in Europe, reports AP.
In the global context, a total of 19,696,961 million coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed with some 727,000 related deaths.
The US is followed by Brazil with more than three million confirmed infections and some 100,000 fatalities.
India has the world's third-highest confirmed caseload as the country confirmed over 2.15 million cases.
The Treasury Department of the United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, and 10 other top officials from Hong Kong and mainland China.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions were used to target those undermining Hong Kong's autonomy, reports BBC.
"The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong," he added.
The development came weeks after China imposed a controversial national security law on Hong Kong.
The effort drew much criticism across the globe and critics said the law threatened Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Among those sanctioned are Hong Kong's police commissioner and several political secretaries.
The US Treasury directly accused Ms Lam of "implementing Beijing's policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes."
"In 2019, Lam pushed for an update to Hong Kong's extradition arrangements to allow for extradition to the mainland, setting off a series of massive opposition demonstrations in Hong Kong," the US Treasury said in a statement.
TikTok has threatened legal action against the United States after Donald Trump ordered the firms to stop doing business with the Chinese app within 45 days.
The company said it was "shocked" by an executive order from the US President outlining the ban, reports BBC.
TikTok said it would "pursue all remedies available" to "ensure the rule of law is not discarded".
Trump issued a similar order against China's WeChat in a major escalation in Washington's stand-off with Beijing.
WeChat's owner, Tencent, said: "We are reviewing the executive order to get a full understanding."
The president has already threatened to ban TikTok in the US, citing national security concerns, and the company is now in talks to sell its American business to Microsoft. They have until 15 September to reach a deal - a deadline set by Trump.
The Trump administration claims that the Chinese government has access to user information gathered by TikTok, which the company has denied.
"We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request," TikTok said.
"We even expressed our willingness to pursue a full sale of the US business to an American company."
Mr Trump said this week he would support the sale to Microsoft as long as the US government received a "substantial portion" of the sale price.
TikTok said the new executive order "risks undermining global businesses' trust in the United States' commitment to the rule of law", adding it sets "a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets".
"We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly - if not by the administration, then by the US courts," it said.
President Donald Trump on Thursday issued an official order banning dealings with Chinese owners of TikTok and WeChat, although it remains unclear if he has the legal authority to actually ban the apps from the US.
The Trump administration has taken the steps against the threat from China while both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have also raised concerns about TikTok, including censorship, misinformation campaigns, the safety of user data and children’s privacy, reports AP.
But the administration has provided no specific evidence that TikTok has made US users’ data available to the Chinese government. Instead, officials point to the hypothetical threat that lies in the Chinese government’s ability to demand cooperation from Chinese companies.
Earlier this week, Trump threatened a deadline of Sept 15 to “close down” TikTok unless Microsoft or another company acquires it.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced an expansion of the US crackdown on Chinese technology to include barring Chinese apps from US app stores, citing alleged security threats and calling out TikTok and WeChat by name.
TikTok and Microsoft had no immediate replies to queries. Tencent declined to comment.
Leading mobile security experts say TikTok is no more intrusive in its harvesting of user data and monitoring of user activity than US apps owned by Facebook and Google.
The twin executive orders — one for each app — take effect in 45 days. They call on the Commerce Secretary to define the banned dealings by that time.
While the wording of the orders is vague, some experts said it appears intended to bar the popular apps from the Apple and Google app stores, which could effectively remove them from distribution in the US.
Trump’s orders cited legal authority from the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act.
“I am the first to yell from the rooftops when there is a glaring privacy issue somewhere. But we just have not found anything we could call a smoking gun in TikTok,” mobile security expert Will Strafach told AP last month after examining the app.
Strafach is CEO of Guardian, which provides a firewall for Apple devices.
The order doesn't seem to ban Americans from using TikTok, said Kirsten Martin, a professor of technology ethics at the University of Notre Dame. She added that such an order would be nearly impossible to enforce in the first place.
“If goal is to get teenagers to stop using TikTok, I’m not sure an executive order will stop them,” she said. “Every teenager knows how to use a VPN (a virtual private network). They will just pretend they are in Canada.”
TikTok is a video-sharing app that's widely popular among young people in the US and elsewhere. It is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, which operates a separate version for the Chinese market. TikTok insists it does not store US user information in China and would not share it with the Chinese government.
TikTok says it has 100 million US users and hundreds of millions globally. According to research firm App Annie, TikTok saw 50 million weekly active users in the US during the week of July 19, the latest available figure. That's up 75 percent from the first week of the year.
WeChat and its sister app Weixin in China are hugely popular messaging apps; many Chinese expatriates use WeChat to stay in touch with friends and family back home. WeChat also says it doesn’t share data with the Chinese government and never has, and does not store international user data in China. US user data is stored in Canada.
The order against Tencent could have ramifications for users beyond WeChat, which is crucial for personal communications and organisations that do business with China. Tencent also owns parts or all of major game companies like Epic Games, publisher of Fortnite, a major video game hit, and Riot Games, which is behind League of Legends.
Facebook has deleted a post from US President Donald Trump’s page for violating its policy against spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.
Facebook said on Wednesday that the “video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies about harmful COVID misinformation,” reports AP.
This is not the first time that Facebook has removed a post from Trump, Facebook said, but it's the first time it has done so because it was spreading misinformation about the coronavirus. The company has also labeled his posts.
A few hours later, Twitter temporarily blocked the Trump campaign from tweeting from its account, until it removed a post with the same video. Trump’s account retweeted the video.
In a statement late Wednesday, the company said that the tweet violated its rules against COVID misinformation. When a tweet breaks its rules, Twitter asks users to remove the tweet in questions and bans them from posting anything else until they do.
Twitter has generally been quicker than Facebook in recent months to label posts from the president that violate its policies against misinformation and abuse.
The post in question featured a link to a Fox News video in which Trump says children are “virtually immune” to the virus.
Several studies suggest, but don’t prove, that children are less likely to become infected than adults and more likely to have only mild symptoms. But this is not the same as being “virtually immune” to the virus.
A CDC study involving 2,500 children published in April found that about 1 in 5 infected children were hospitalized versus 1 in 3 adults; three children died. The study lacks complete data on all the cases, but it also suggests that many infected children have no symptoms, which could allow them to spread the virus to others.