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In a new executive order, the Biden administration has directed the Commerce Department to conduct “evidence-based” investigations of applications connected to “a foreign adversary” and “address any unacceptable or undue risks consistent with overall national security, foreign policy, and economic objectives.”
The order specifically named China as one of the “foreign adversaries” under scrutiny and pointed to concerns that U.S. citizens’ “personal information and proprietary business information” could be accessed through their personal devices. And in another apparent message aimed at China, which the U.S. has accused of engaging in human rights abuses, the White House’s order also included a provision for the U.S. to “impose consequences” on “persons who own, control, or manage connected software applications [who] engage in serious human rights abuse or otherwise facilitate such abuse.” It is not immediately clear what such consequences would entail.
The White House’s move to drop the orders against TikTok and WeChat, whose parent companies are headquartered in China, comes nearly a year after the Trump administration issued an executive order last August that forced the sale of TikTok’s U.S. assets to a U.S.-based owner. That sale, with Oracle and Walmart once expected to take a large stake in TikTok, has since stalled under the Biden administration.
Representatives for TikTok and Tencent, the owner of WeChat, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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