The Biden administration said Wednesday it reviewed former President Donald Trumps efforts to ban TikTok in the United States as the Chinese-owned video app continued negotiations on its future.
In one case, lawyers from the Department of Justice alleged that the new administration had begun reviewing whether TikTok was the threat to national security that Trump had claimed.
The former president issued several decrees that would have prevented Americans from accessing TikTok, but they have attracted legal challenges and have not yet entered into force.
In the court filing, the DoJ designated the rules of the Commerce Department and an executive order that would have limited new downloads by TikTok from Apple’s and Google’s app stores.
The Commerce Department “plans to conduct an evaluation of the underlying registration that justifies these bans,” the filing said.
DoJ attorneys asked two U.S. judges on appeal to endure reviewing previous rulings that prevented the restrictions from taking effect. “A review of the bans discussed here may narrow the issues raised or eliminate the need for this court’s review altogether,” they said.
The move is the latest development in a controversial and drawn-out debate about TikTok’s presence in the US and its ownership structure. In addition to the pressure from orders to close the app, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the USA, or Cfius, also ordered last year that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance sell the app.
Trump originally gave his blessing to a preliminary agreement that would have created a new entity with U.S. headquarters called TikTok Global, where Oracle monitors U.S. user data and takes a stake in the company along with other U.S. investors.
Both sides later challenged the terms of the deal, drawing a reprimand from Trump, leaving the negotiations in limbo as the former president turned to re-election efforts.
The Biden administration has made it clear that it will review all of the China-related actions taken by Trump in his final months in office, including those related to TikTok.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the administration “thoroughly assesses” any risk to U.S. individuals’ personal data, including users of TikTok. Psaki said there was an ongoing and “strict” Cfius process associated with the app.
TikTok has said they do not share US user data with the Chinese government. ByteDance declined to comment on Wednesday’s court statement.
A Cfius deadline in December for ByteDance to restructure TikTok’s US operations passed without a decision, although people briefed on the discussions at the time said the committee had no plans to take any immediate action against the Chinese company.
Biden has signaled that he will maintain a hawkish stance on China over everything from Beijing’s efforts to crack down on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong to the repression of Uighurs in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
But the administration has been less aware of how it will evaluate technology-related issues affecting U.S. national security, and has stressed that it takes an approach to “patience” when formulating policy.
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