Biden drops Trump try and ban TikTok, WeChat; orders new evaluation

President Joe Biden on Wednesday withdrew a number of Trump-era executive orders banning new downloads from WeChat and TikTok, and ordered the Department of Commerce to review security concerns for these and other apps.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration had tried to prevent new users from downloading the apps and banned other technical transactions, which the Chinese short video sharing app TikTok and WeChat said are effectively blocking the use of the apps in the United States would.

The courts blocked these orders, but they never took effect.

A separate U.S. national security clearance of TikTok, initiated in late 2019, remains active and will continue, a White House official said, declining to provide details. The White House remains very concerned about TikTok users’ data risks, another administration official told reporters.

Biden’s order directs the Department of Commerce to monitor software applications such as TikTok that could compromise US national security, as well as make recommendations within 120 days to protect US data acquired by companies or accessed by foreign adversaries to be controlled.

TikTok declined to comment. WeChat didn’t comment immediately.

WeChat, which has been downloaded at least 19 million times by US users, is widely used as a medium for services, games, and payments.

Michael Bien, the chief attorney for the WeChat Users Alliance, which sued to block the Trump order, praised the Biden administration for “falsely banning WeChat that … would have led to the unprecedented shutdown of a major platform , would have repealed ”. for the communications that millions of people in the United States rely on. “

Biden’s new executive order revokes Trump’s WeChat and TikTok orders in August and another in January that targeted eight more communications and financial technology software applications.

The January Trump order ordered officials to ban transactions using eight Chinese apps, including Ant Group’s Alipay (688688.SS) and Tencent Holdings Ltd’s QQ Wallet and WeChat (0700.HK); no bans have been issued so far.

A picture of US President Donald Trump can be seen on a smartphone in front of displayed Tik Tok and WeChat logos in this illustration dated September 18, 2020. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration

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The Trump administration claimed WeChat and TikTok had national security concerns as sensitive personal information from US users could be collected by the Chinese government.

Both TikTok, which has over 100 million users in the US, and WeChat have denied having raised national security concerns.

In February, Reuters reported that corporate sponsors rushed back to TikTok after some interrupted or delayed their efforts after Trump’s announcement in August. General Motors’ (GM.N) flagship brand Chevrolet began advertising on TikTok through its own channel in February.

The Trump administration appealed against court orders blocking the bans on TikTok and WeChat, but after Biden took office in January, the U.S. Department of Justice moved to suspend the appeals.

A US Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. Status reports are due on Friday in the appeal process.

Biden’s orders say that collecting data from Americans “threatens to give foreign opponents access to this information.”

The order directs the Department of Commerce to “continuously evaluate” all transactions that “pose an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security or resilience of the United States’ critical infrastructure or digital economy.”

Biden’s executive order requires that US intelligence and homeland security agencies submit vulnerability and threat assessments of US data controlled by foreign adversaries to the Department of Commerce within 60 days of conducting its review.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley said on Twitter that the withdrawal of Trump’s orders was “a huge mistake – showing alarming complacency about #China’s access to Americans’ personal information and #China’s growing corporate influence.”

Last week, Biden signed an executive order banning U.S. investments in certain Chinese defense and surveillance technology companies. The order replaced a similar Trump-era order that failed legal scrutiny.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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