President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday revoking the Trump-era bans on TikTok and WeChat. In place of the Trump order, Biden will direct the commerce secretary to investigate apps with ties to foreign adversaries that may pose a risk to American data privacy or national security.
The order takes the place of a series of executive orders instituted by President Trump last year, which blocked apps like TikTok, WeChat, and Alipay from US app stores and took further measures to prevent them from operating in the US. The most extreme effects of those orders were forestalled by ongoing court challenges, but Wednesday’s order will revoke the orders outright. Instead, Biden’s order will institute a new framework for determining the national security risks of transactions that involve apps that are connected to the governments or militaries of foreign adversaries, like China, or collect sensitive data from US consumers.
TikTok and WeChat did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Verge.
“The CFIUS action remains under active discussion by the US government”
“The administration is committed to promoting an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet and to protecting human rights online and offline, and to supporting a vibrant global digital economy,” a senior administration official said Wednesday.
“The challenge that we’re addressing with this EO is that certain countries, including China, do not share these commitments or values and are instead working to leverage digital technologies and American data in ways that present unacceptable national security risks,” the official continued.
Wednesday’s order calls on the Commerce Department and other federal agencies to work together to craft recommendations to protect against the collection, sale, and transfer of sensitive US consumer data to foreign adversaries. The Commerce Department is expected to then make recommendations for future executive actions or legislation to address these concerns.
Still, the order does not address actions or investigations taken by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS. Under the Trump administration, CFIUS set several deadlines for apps like TikTok to divest itself from its Chinese owner ByteDance. For several months, Oracle was reportedly set to purchase TikTok in order to stave off the former administration’s ban, although the deal never came to fruition.
“The CFIUS action remains under active discussion by the US government,” a senior administration official said Wednesday.
Wednesday’s order is just the latest move from the Biden administration to address challenges posed by China. Last week, Biden signed a separate order expanding a Trump-era ban on American investment in Chinese companies with alleged ties to China’s military. The order laid out 59 companies barred from investment, including those that create and deploy surveillance technology used against Muslim minorities and government dissidents in Hong Kong.
A senior administration official said Wednesday to expect additional actions against China as Biden makes his first trip in office to meet with leaders of the Group of 7 nations, NATO, and the European Union.