Joe Biden is withdrawing a series of executive orders seeking to ban new WeChat and TikTok downloads and ordering a new Commerce Department review of security concerns raised by those apps, the White House said Wednesday.
The administration of previous President Donald Trump had attempted to block new users from downloading the apps and ban other technical transactions that Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat said would effectively block the use of the apps in the US. they blocked those orders that never went into effect.
Biden’s new executive order revokes the WeChat and TikTok orders, along with another in January that targeted eight other communications and fintech software applications.
A US national security review of TikTok is ongoing, a White House official said.
On August 6, 2020, Trump published executive orders targeting viral video app TikTok and messaging app WeChat.
The orders stated that the two apps will not be able to process transactions for US citizens and will not be downloadable from US app stores after 45 days, or on September 20, due to security concerns.
On August 14, Trump said in a separate executive order that TikTok would face a complete ban if it was not sold to a US company by November 14.
Lawyers for the Trump administration said it was in the national security interest to ban TikTok because of ties between ByteDance, the app’s parent company, and the Chinese government.
The orders were later blocked by a US court.
A separate US national security review of TikTok released in late 2019 remains active, said a White House official, declining to provide details.
The White House remains highly concerned about data risks for TikTok users, another administration official told reporters.
TikTok declined to comment. WeChat did not immediately comment.
Biden’s new executive order revokes the WeChat and TikTok orders that Trump issued in August, along with another in January that targeted eight other communications and fintech software applications.
The January order ordered officials to ban transactions with eight Chinese apps, including Ant Group’s Alipay, Tencent’s QQ Wallet, and WeChat Pay; to date no bans have been issued.
The Trump administration maintained that WeChat and TikTok raised national security concerns with the threat that sensitive personal data of US users could be collected by the Chinese government.
TikTok, which has more than 100 million users in the United States, and WeChat have denied raising national security concerns.
The Trump administration had appealed court orders blocking TikTok and WeChat bans, but after Biden took office in January, the Justice Department asked to pause the appeals.
A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment. Status reports on appeal cases are due on Friday.
Biden’s order says that the collection of data from Americans “threatens to provide foreign adversaries with access to that information.”
The order directs the Commerce Department to “continually evaluate” any transaction that “poses an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security or resilience of critical infrastructure or the digital economy of the United States.”
Biden’s executive order also directs the commerce department within 120 days to make recommendations to protect US data acquired or accessible by companies controlled by foreign adversaries.
Last week, Biden signed an executive order prohibiting US investment in certain Chinese companies in the defense and surveillance technology sectors.
The order replaced a similar order from the Trump era that did not stand up to legal scrutiny.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism