Biden drops plan to ban Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat


US President Joe Biden on Wednesday revoked executive orders from his predecessor Donald Trump to ban Chinese mobile apps TikTok and WeChat on national security grounds, the White House said.

A statement said that instead of banning popular apps, the Biden administration would conduct a “criteria-based decision framework and rigorous, evidence-based analysis to address the risks” of controlled internet applications. by foreign entities.

Trump had claimed the apps posed national security risks and sought to force the sale of TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance and remains one of the world’s most popular social media apps, to U.S. investors.

The Trump administration’s efforts sparked a series of court challenges that delayed efforts to ban or force the sale of the apps, exacerbating tensions between Washington and Beijing.

There was no immediate comment from either company.

Biden issued a new executive order citing an “ongoing emergency” related to “the continued effort by foreign adversaries to steal or otherwise obtain data of people from the United States” and calling for a four-month review.

University of Texas law professor Bobby Chesney, who follows national security issues, called the Biden order a “good middle ground.”

“They affirmed the nature of the threat and the relevance of using sanctions to deal with it, and they left the door open for the reimposition of a version of those sanctions … but probably with a much stronger record and more defensible, ”Chesney tweeted.

But officials said Biden’s order did not quash consideration of the 2017 acquisition of TikTok’s precursor by ByteDance.

“It would be premature to celebrate; Bytedance remains subject to an entirely separate divestment order from CFIUS, ”Chesney said in a blog post, referring to the Intergovernmental Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is conducting the review.

“President Biden’s action today does not change that. Of course, that may also change, ”he added.

Biden’s order seeks to identify all “connected software applications that may pose an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States and the American people,” including “applications owned, controlled or managed by persons who support the United States. military or intelligence activities of the foreign adversary, or which are involved in malicious cyber activities or involve applications that collect sensitive personal data.

The new ordinance asks the Commerce Department and other federal agencies to develop guidelines “to protect sensitive personal data … including personally identifiable information and genetic information” from abuse.

TikTok is said to have some 1 billion users worldwide, including over 100 million in the United States, and is particularly popular with young smartphone users.

Last September, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols issued a temporary injunction at TikTok’s request blocking efforts to ban downloads of the app in the United States.

Trump had given his blessing to a plan that would have given US tech giant Oracle TikTok with investments from retail powerhouse Walmart, but that deal was not approved in Beijing.

WeChat, part of Chinese tech giant Tencent, is a very popular “super app” that includes social media, messaging, e-commerce and more.

The WeChat ban was also delayed by a lawsuit filed by US-based users, claiming the ban infringed their rights.

Biden’s move comes a day after the U.S. Senate passed a sweeping industrial policy bill aimed at countering China’s growing economic threat and injecting more than $ 170 billion into research and development.

The package, a key provision of which addresses a semiconductor shortage that has slowed US auto production this year, will help US industry build capacity and improve technology, in a bid to avoid being outmaneuvered. by Beijing as adversaries vie for technological leadership.

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