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TikTok and WeChat ban revoked, new federal app review process ordered

Credit: Kon Karampelas

President Joe Biden has revoked Trump-era bans on TikTok and WeChat, but at the same time ordered broader investigations into apps that could pose a risk to U.S. data privacy or national security.

The president on Wednesday signed a new executive order that revokes Trump's ban on the Chinese apps. In place of a ban, the order also directs the U.S. Commerce Department to evaluate apps that could be connected to foreign adversaries and "take action, as appropriate."

Specifically, the Commerce Department will be required to investigate apps "involving software applications that are designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by persons that are owned or controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction of a foreign adversary." That includes the People's Republic of China, according to the White House's fact sheet on the order.

As per the order, criteria for apps that could pose a heightened risk include when "transactions involve 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."

Former President Donald Trump signed an order to ban TikTok and WeChat in the U.S. Though that order was blocked by federal judges, Trump sought to force a sale of the ByteDance-owned TikTok to U.S. companies.

The Biden Administration shelved the pending TikTok ban earlier in 2021. At the time, it said it would "develop a comprehensive approach to securing U.S. data."

Senior officials in the White House told The Wall Street Journal that the order is meant to replace Trump's piecemeal approach with a much more comprehensive plan to review apps that might pose a risk to Americans or that are connected with potentially hostile nations.

The action is also only the latest piece of the Biden Administration's emerging China policy. President Biden has also signed an executive order meant to boost U.S. technology manufacturing in an effort to reduce reliance on China and mitigate semiconductor supply chain shortages, which the administration has called a "national security" issue.

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