WASHINGTON— The Commerce Department announced Monday that it was rescinding a list of prohibited transactions with TikTok and WeChat that was issued in September as part of the Trump administration’s effort to prevent new U.S. downloads of both Chinese-owned apps.
The withdrawals came after President Joe Biden withdrew a series of Trump-era executive orders earlier this month that sought to prohibit new downloads of Tencent-owned WeChat and TikTok, as well as order a Commerce Department review of security concerns raised by those apps and others.
Under Trump, the Commerce Department sought to prohibit other transactions that would have effectively prohibited WeChat’s use in the United States, and later sought similar restrictions that would have prohibited TikTok’s use.
The department did not respond right away.
The Biden order directed the Commerce Department to monitor software applications such as TikTok that may have an impact on US national security and to make recommendations within 120 days to protect US data acquired or accessible by companies controlled by foreign adversaries.
WeChat is a popular social media and messaging app developed by Tencent Holdings, a Chinese technology conglomerate. Evidence suggests that WeChat is a tool used by the Chinese Communist Party for censorship, monitoring, and suppression (CCP).
Biden’s executive order revokes the orders Trump issued in August targeting WeChat and TikTok, as well as another in January targeting eight other communications and financial technology software applications.
The order issued by Trump in January directed officials to prohibit transactions with eight Chinese apps, including Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent’s QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay. So far, no bans have been imposed.
The Trump administration had sought judicial orders to overturn the TikTok and WeChat bans, but after Biden took office in January, the US Justice Department asked for the appeals to be halted.
A separate TikTok national security review, launched in late 2019, is still ongoing.