US President Joe Biden on Wednesday revoked executive orders from his predecessor, former US president Donald Trump, seeking to ban Chinese-owned mobile phone apps TikTok and WeChat over national security concerns, the White House said.
A statement said that instead of banning the popular apps, the Biden administration would carry out a “criteria-based decision framework and rigorous, evidence-based analysis to address the risks” from Internet applications controlled by foreign entities.
Trump had claimed that the apps posed national security risks and had sought to force the sale of TikTok, which is owned by China-based ByteDance Ltd (字節跳動) and remains one of the world’s most popular social media apps, to US investors.
The effort by the Trump administration prompted a series of legal challenges, delaying the efforts to ban or force the sale of the applications, which heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing.
There was no immediate comment from the two companies.
Biden issued a new executive order citing an “ongoing emergency” related to “the continuing effort of foreign adversaries to steal or otherwise obtain United States persons’ data” and calling for a four-month review.
Bobby Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas who follows national security issues, called the Biden order “a good middle path.”
“They affirmed the nature of the threat and the propriety of using sanctions to address it, and they have held the door open for reimposing some version of these sanctions ... but likely with a far stronger and more defensible record,” Chesney wrote on Twitter.
However, US officials said that Biden’s order stopped short of rescinding a review of the 2017 acquisition of TikTok forerunner Musical.ly by ByteDance.
“It would be premature to celebrate; Bytedance remains subject to an entirely separate CFIUS divestment order,” Chesney said in a blog post, referring to the intergovernmental Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is carrying out the review.
“Today’s action by President Biden does nothing to change that. Of course, it could be that this too will change,” he added.
Biden’s order seeks to identify any “connected software applications that may pose an unacceptable risk to US national security and the American people” including “applications that are owned, controlled, or managed by persons that support foreign adversary military or intelligence activities, or are involved in malicious cyber activities, or involve applications that collect sensitive personal data.”
The new order calls for the US Department of Commerce and other agencies to develop guidelines “to protect sensitive personal data ... including personally identifiable information and genetic information” from misuse.
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