White House Launches Broader Scrutiny of Foreign Tech

An executive order signed by President Joe Biden this week dropped a Trump-era measure that barred Americans from downloading TikTok and several other Chinese smartphone apps. But analysts say the order also broadens the scrutiny of foreign-controlled technology.Biden’s move replaced three Trump administration executive orders that sought to ban downloads of TikTok and WeChat and transactions with eight other Chinese apps. The FILE – A counter promoting WeChat, a product of Tencent, for reading books for the blind is displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, March 18, 2015.”This means that TikTok may have to go through another review, and any decision won’t be easily challenged in court,” he added. “This is the start of Round 2, and TikTok may not get off as easily this time.”When asked during a briefing Wednesday if the White House still intended to ban TikTok or WeChat, an administration official told reporters that all apps listed on the revoked executive orders would be reviewed under the new process and criteria.Key order standsJulian Ku, a law professor at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, told VOA that Biden had maintained one of Trump’s most important executive orders. Trump signed the “Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain” order in May 2019, declaring a national emergency posed by foreign adversaries “who are increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology and services.”Biden is “not revoking the basic framework, which is that the U.S. government should be trying to prevent transfer of personal data to a foreign adversary,” Ku told VOA in a phone interview. “He reserves the right in theory to come back and go after those companies or other companies that would potentially be threatening the personal data of America.”Both TikTok and WeChat did not respond to VOA’s request for comment.TikTok, a social networking app for sharing short, user-produced video clips, and WeChat, an app that includes messaging, social media and payment platforms, both collect extensive data on their users. The core concern is that the Chinese government will be able to access this data and potentially leverage it for espionage or blackmail. U.S. officials also worry that the heavy censorship of these apps will result in biased political opinions and increased spread of misinformation.A Ban on WeChat and TikTok, a Disconnected World and Two Internets Some policy analysts from America’s closest allies welcome the latest hardline approach by the Trump AdministrationThe American Civil Liberties Union applauded Biden’s move but warned against “taking us down the same misguided path by serving as a smokescreen for future bans or other unlawful actions” with the requirement of a new security review. The rights group considered the Trump-era bans a violation of First Amendment rights.BREAKING: The Biden administration has revoked Trump-era executive orders that targeted TikTok and WeChat and violated our First Amendment rights.— ACLU (@ACLU) June 9, 2021Senator Josh Hawley criticized Biden’s move, calling it a “major mistake.”It “shows alarming complacency regarding China’s access to Americans’ personal information, as well as China’s growing corporate influence,” he said on Twitter.This is a major mistake – shows alarming complacency regarding #China’s access to Americans’ personal information, as well as #China’s growing corporate influence https://t.co/AP8KswDHNW— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) June 9, 2021Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said in Thursday’s daily briefing that the revocation of Trump-era bans was “a step towards the right direction” and that officials hoped to see Chinese companies “treated fairly.”


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