During the second half of his term, President Donald Trump tried to ban downloads of the app with Chinese operations, TikTok, in the United States. After last year’s power exchange, new President Joe Biden recently reversed a trio of Trump-era executive orders aimed at TikTok and WeChat. But he and the rest of the federal government are not leaving the applications completely disconnected.
Instead of Trump’s orders, Biden signed an order that will instruct the Commerce Department to conduct security reviews of applications that may be operating under a “foreign adversary.” Given the current relationship between the two countries, this terminology may belong to applications with connections to China, such as TikTok and WeChat. However, it opens the door to research on applications from other countries that may pose a security risk.
“The federal government should assess these threats through rigorous evidence-based analysis and address any unacceptable or undue risks that are consistent with national security, foreign policy, and general economic goals,” the Biden’s order, “including the preservation and demonstration of the American core fundamental values and freedoms.”
Advancing from the TikTok ban
There have been concerns for some time about TikTok’s ties to the Chinese government. In the past, the DOJ investigated the application links with China and found it acting as the country’s spokesperson.
The Trump administration tried several ways to repress TikTok. In the fall of 2020, Trump signed orders threatening to ban all TikTok downloads in the US. Later, the Trump Administration tried to reach an agreement with TikTok. Trump would allow TikTok downloads in the United States if it was sold all its assets to an American company. However, Trump’s attempts to moderate the application ended.
Still, both administrations appear to be wary of TikTok and its ties to the Chinese government. Although the recent actions of the Biden Administration have officially ended the dispute between TikTok and the federal government for the time being, it does set the framework for applications with connections to foreign entities to be examined in the future. Again, TikTok is safe for now. That said, we will need to keep a close eye on what possible security reviews could reveal under the guidelines of Biden’s new executive order.