The US Commerce Department announced it was rescinding a list of prohibited transactions with TikTok and WeChat that were issued in September as the Trump administration sought to block new US downloads of both apps.
The withdrawals came after President Biden earlier this month withdrew a series of Trump-era executive orders that sought to ban new downloads of Tencent-owned WeChat and ByteDance’s virally popular TikTok, and ordered a Commerce Department review of security concerns posed by those apps and others.
The Commerce Department under Trump also had sought to ban other transactions that would have effectively banned WeChat’s use the US and later sought similar restrictions that would have barred TikTok’s use.
The department did not immediately comment.
The Biden order directed the Commerce Department to monitor software applications like TikTok that could affect US national security, as well as to make recommendations within 120 days to protect US data acquired or accessible by companies controlled by foreign adversaries.
WeChat, which has been downloaded at least 19 million times by US users, is widely used as a medium for services, games and payments.
Biden’s executive order revokes the WeChat and TikTok orders Trump issued in August, along with another in January that targeted eight other communications and financial technology software applications. Rightly/wrongly, the move is likely to increase the perception in some circles within the US that China “has the goods on Biden”.
The January Trump order directed officials to ban transactions with eight Chinese apps, including Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent’s QQ Wallet and WeChat pay. No bans have been issued to date.
The Trump administration had appealed judicial orders blocking the bans on TikTok and WeChat, but after Biden took office in January, the US Justice Department asked to pause the appeals.
It is also important to note that a separate US national security review of TikTok, launched in late 2019, remains active.
The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this article. Automatic translation from English to a growing list of languages via Google AI Cloud Translation. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by David Shepardson. Editing by Nick Zieminski.
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