The Biden administration revoked former President Donald Trump’s orders that had attempted to ban social media apps TikTok and WeChat over security risks because of their connections to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on June 9, stating the administration would conduct its own review of apps with ties to the Chinese regime.
An executive order signed by President Joe Biden directs the U.S. Department of Commerce to “evaluate these threats through rigorous, evidence-based analysis” and advises they “should address any unacceptable or undue risks consistent with overall national security, foreign policy, and economic objectives, including the preservation and demonstration of America’s core values and fundamental freedoms.”
The Commerce Department, according to the White House, will be required to review TikTok, WeChat, and other apps that are developed, designed, controlled, or manufactured by entities linked to the CCP. The order notes that such apps “may present an undue or unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States and the American people.”
Trump’s executive actions targeting ByteDance, a Beijing-based firm that owns TikTok, and WeChat, which is owned by the Shenzhen-based Tencent Holdings, were blocked by several federal court orders. Trump had also attempted to force the sale of TikTok.
TikTok sought relief via the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for a review of Trump’s divestment order and the federal government’s order to conduct a national security review.
Unnamed Biden administration officials told The Wall Street Journal the latest executive order is designed to replace Trump’s orders with a more comprehensive process targeting apps that may have connections to foreign adversaries, including the CCP. The Commerce Department didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
The Trump administration order that affected TikTok and ByteDance, which has also contributed funds to Facebook “fact-checking” website LeadStores, prohibited “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with ByteDance Ltd.,” among other restrictions.
Last year, cybersecurity experts warned TikTok was being used by the Chinese regime to spy on Americans. Critics have also warned that users’ content could be censored if the CCP deems it politically sensitive—even if that user lives outside of China.
Casey Fleming, CEO of intelligence and security strategy firm BlackOps Partners, told The Epoch Times that “all technology coming out of China—either manufactured in China, created in China—is controlled by the CCP.”
Mark Grabowski, an associate professor specializing in cyber law and digital ethics at Adelphi University, told The Epoch Times that TikTok is merely “Chinese government malware masquerading as a social media app.”
“The app collects way more data than it needs to,” Grabowski said in an email last year. “For example, it’s odd that TikTok does GPS [Global Positioning System] tracking since TikTok videos don’t display location information.”