President Biden officially revoked Donald Trump’s executive orders last year that sought to ban TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps over supposed national security concerns.
On Wednesday, the White House announced that Biden signed an executive order revoking then-President Trump’s August 2020 order instructing Chinese internet giant ByteDance to sell TikTok to U.S. entities under the threat of TikTok’s shutdown, and another aimed at WeChat that barred U.S. entities from conducting business with the Tencent-owned messaging app (which would have effectively made it unavailable to users in America).
At the same time, Biden’s “Executive Order on Protecting Americans’ Sensitive Data from Foreign Adversaries” instructs Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to investigate apps with ties to foreign adversaries that may pose a risk to U.S. data privacy or national security.
“The Federal Government should evaluate these threats through rigorous, evidence-based analysis and 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,” Biden’s June 9 executive order says.
In the wake of Trump’s order last year, ByteDance had reached a tentative deal with Oracle and Walmart to sell them a combined 20% stake in TikTok. That deal now appears all but dead. In February, the Biden administration’s Justice Department requested that TikTok’s litigation against the U.S. government over the Trump divestiture order be put on hold.
The Trump orders that would have banned TikTok and WeChat never went into effect because of successful legal challenges. Federal judges ruled that Trump overstepped his authority in ordering TikTok to shut down, finding the administration’s hypothetical concerns about TikTok’s security risks unconvincing, while the WeChat ban was blocked on First Amendment grounds.
Separately, earlier this spring, ByteDance appointed Shou Zi Chew, who had joined ByteDance as CFO this year, as CEO of TikTok. He took over the post after Kevin Mayer, a former high-ranking Disney exec, came — and quickly went — as CEO of TikTok last year amid the geopolitical uncertainty over the popular short-form video app.