President Biden on Wednesday revoked a Trump-era executive order that sought to ban the popular apps TikTok and WeChat and replaced it with one that calls for a broader review of a number of foreign-controlled applications that could pose a security risk to Americans and their data.
On a call with reporters on Wednesday, administration officials said that the Trump-era order had not been carried out “in the soundest fashion” and that the new directive would establish “clear intelligible criteria” to evaluate national security risks posed by software applications connected to foreign governments, particularly China.
The order will address a number of applications and bolster recent actions the Biden administration has taken to curb the growing influence of Chinese technology companies. And it is the first significant step Mr. Biden has taken to address a challenge left for him by President Donald J. Trump, whose administration fought to ban TikTok and force its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app. Legal challenges immediately followed and the app is still available as the battle languishes in the courts.
On Wednesday, administration officials said a review of TikTok by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the body that reviews the national security implications of foreign investments in U.S. companies, was still continuing and separate from the order.
Mr. Biden’s order “will direct the secretary of commerce to use a criteria-based decision framework and rigorous, evidence-based analysis to evaluate and address the risks” posed by foreign-operated applications, according to a memo circulated by the Commerce Department and obtained by The New York Times. “As warranted, the secretary will determine appropriate actions based on a thorough review of the risks posed by foreign adversary connected software applications.”
TikTok declined to comment on Wednesday morning.
Mr. Biden’s order was meant to broaden one issued in 2019 by the Trump administration, which banned American telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security. That order did not name specific companies, nor did the one Mr. Biden issued on Wednesday. The new directive also does not mention specific retaliatory measures that could be taken if an application is found to be a threat to national security.
On Wednesday, administration officials would not go into specifics about the future of TikTok’s availability to American users or say whether the United States government would seek to compel ByteDance to transfer American user data to a company based in the United States. Amid a number of successful legal challenges waged by ByteDance, a deal to transfer the data to Oracle fell through this year shortly after Mr. Biden took office.