U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday revoked a series of executive orders signed by former President Donald Trump that took aim at short-form video app TikTok and Tencent-owned multi-purpose chat app WeChat and issued a new one that takes a more focused aim at foreign governments, like China, that are adversarial to the U.S.
In a release, the White House said that the new executive order is focused on protecting the private information of users in the United States. Further, the new EO orders the Commerce Department to develop criteria for assessing national security threats from companies that are operated outside the U.S.
In August of 2020, Trump signed several executive orders targeting TikTok and WeChat. Both were challenged in federal court and soundly defeated. The order called for TikTok owner ByteDance to divest itself of its U.S. operations, which the company attempted to do with several companies including Walmart and Oracle, but no deal was ever completed. It would appear that with the revocation of the TikTok order, the company no longer has to worry about selling.
Separately, an advocacy group representing WeChat users in the U.S. sued in federal court, citing first amendment concerns, and ultimately won. In both federal court cases, judges noted that the Trump administration failed to prove that either app posed a national security risk.
It is unclear if the recent inquiries from the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (which is an inter-agency committee led by Treasury) into how Tencent-owned Riot Games and Epic Games (of which Tencent has a stake in) handle user data will continue or end. We will continue to follow this story as it develops.
WeChat is owned by Tencent, which has holdings in such esports-endemic companies as Riot Games, Epic Games, Ubisoft, and Activision Blizzard, among others. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, which also recently purchased MOONTON, the developer of the popular mobile esports title, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.
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