President Biden has reversed former President Trump’s TikTok and WeChat bans in an executive order unveiled today. The new president will instead focus on more specific tasks aimed at protecting American data from China as a whole, rather than taking aim at select companies.
In the executive order, the administration says individual threats should be looked at through a “rigorous, evidence-based analysis” and threats tackled in ways “consistent with overall national security, foreign policy, and economic objectives, including the preservation and demonstration of America’s core values and fundamental freedoms.”
The U.S. and TikTok drama started last year with allegations that the Bytedance-owned company was sending user data back to China and exposing users to blackmail from foreign governments. While there had never been quite any concrete proof of this, the Trump administration went ahead and banned TikTok and later WeChat. Both bans would never take effect as U.S. courts took stepped to halt their enforcement.
Back in February, the Biden administration signaled it had little interest in continuing down this road, and this new order is a very concrete expression of that desire. Other solutions in the past had included selling TikTok to a U.S.-based company like Oracle or Microsoft. TikTok was actually sold to Oracle in the end, but the process was never really completed. Progress slowed in February for the aforementioned reasons, and with the ban now averted, it’s hard to imagine such a sale moving forward.
Not all Chinese companies are getting a reprieve, though. Sure, Xiaomi may have gotten away from being placed on an investor blacklist, but Huawei hasn’t been as lucky. Unfortunately for the tech giant, the Biden administration has not deviated from the previous administration’s antagonistic stance.