Biden repeals Trump's ban on TikTok and WeChat but raises scrutiny on Chinese apps

US President Joe Biden has decided to reverse the decisions of his predecessor in office, Donald Trump, to ban the use of Chinese social media TikTok and WeChat, a measure that has faced significant legal challenges since it was issued in 2020. However, it has issued a new order that intensifies the scrutiny of Chinese applications for security reasons, as reported by the White House in a statement on Wednesday.

The new decree orders the Commerce Department to initiate a “rigorous and evidence-based” analysis of the applications that collect personal information from users and whose technology has ties to the Asian giant. The goal is to determine whether they pose a risk to US national security.

“Certain countries, including China, seek to use digital technologies and American data that pose unacceptable national security risks, while assisting authoritarian interests and controls,” said the White House, which acknowledged that applications can “access and capture large amounts of user information.”

Specifically, the US government targets those applications that “are owned, controlled or managed by individuals who support a foreign military adversary or intelligence activities, are involved in malicious cyber activities, or store sensitive personal data.”

Trump’s orders, from August 2020, remain blocked for the moment by court decision. Trump even demanded that the firm that owns TikTok, the Chinese ByteDance, sell its business in the country to US companies.

Biden’s decision comes on the same day that he begins his first international trip since arriving at the White House, which will take him to the UK G7 summit, meetings with his European partners in Brussels and his first meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Shortly before getting on the plane, the president assured that the objective of his trip to Europe is to “strengthen the alliance” and “make it clear to Russia and China that” the US and Europe are together. ”

TikTok was never effectively banned in the US because the Justice allowed it to continue operating until it was determined whether the rule approved by Trump was in line with the law or not.

The executive order approved by Biden is not related to the obligation that ByteDance, the parent of TikTok, was forced to sell said application to a third party. ByteDance chose Oracle as a “trusted technology provider” in September 2020, but a sales agreement was never formalized, as requested by Trump.

Ahley Gorsky, senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has applauded Biden’s decision to overturn the ban. “President Biden is right to revoke these executive orders from the Trump administration, which flagrantly violated the First Amendment rights of TikTok and WeChat users in the US.” “The Commerce Department’s review of these and other applications should not lead us down the same wrong path, serving as a smokescreen for future bans or other illegal actions,” added Gorsky, according to the BBC.

Next week, Biden is scheduled to meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and the two are expected to announce a partnership around technology and trade, in an attempt to roll back the rise of China as a technological superpower. It is likely, according to the British network, that the association will include joint standards on emerging technologies, as well as commitments to take stronger measures in Internet surveillance.

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