Tuesday, June 22, 2021

White House begins broader investigation into foreign technology

An executive order signed by President Joe Biden this week has dropped a Trump-era measure that has banned Americans from downloading TikTok and several other Chinese smartphone apps. But analysts believe the order also broadens the investigation into foreign-controlled technology.

Biden’s move replaces three executive orders from the Trump administration seeking to ban downloads of TikTok and WeChat and transactions with eight other Chinese apps. The order asked the Department of Commerce to launch a national security review of apps owned or controlled by a foreign adversary.

Analysts said that although TikTok and WeChat were not mentioned in the executive order, they were not fully approved by the government.

According to a White House fact sheet, the order will provide clear criteria for identifying transactions to which foreign software is linked, which poses risks to US national security.

“The Biden government is committed to promoting an open, interoperable, reliable and secure Internet; the protection of human rights online and offline; and the support of a vibrant, global digital economy,” the document said. “Certain countries, including the People’s Republic of China, do not share these values ​​and seek to exploit digital technologies and Americans’ data in ways that pose unacceptable national security risks while promoting authoritarian control and interests.”

The order also sets deadlines for executive branch officials to form committees to study the risks posed by foreign-controlled technologies and to make policy recommendations.

Overcoming legal challenges

Analysts say the new process could help overcome the legal challenges holding back the Trump administration’s executive orders.

Courts have blocked two executive orders aimed at banning WeChat and TikTok issued by former President Donald Trump in August 2020. Another one released in January 2021, aimed at banning transactions with eight other Chinese apps, did not take effect.

James Lewis, a cyber security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, said the new order eliminates the legal challenges facing the Trump ban.

“The executive order provides a strong basis for deciding when to act and meets the clear criteria for a decision on the court’s objections to whimsy. The EO places us in [a] much better place by creating strong criteria and a good decision-making process, “Lewis said in an email to VOA.

FILE – a counter promoting WeChat, a product of Tencent, for reading books for the blind, will be unveiled at a news conference in Hong Kong on March 18, 2015.

“This means that TikTok may have to reconsider and that any decision cannot be easily challenged in court,” he added. “This is the beginning of Round 2, and TikTok can not come down so easily this time.”

When an administration official was asked during an information session on Wednesday whether the White House still intends to ban TikTok or WeChat, he told reporters that all programs appearing on the recall executive orders would be reviewed under the new process and criteria. word.

Key order stands

Julian Ku, a law professor at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, told VOA that Biden persisted 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 state of emergency by foreign opponents “who are increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology and services.”

Biden “does not recall the basic framework, namely that the US government should try to prevent the transfer of personal data to a foreign adversary,” Ku said in a telephone interview with VOA. “He reserves the right in theory to come back and go to the companies or other companies that could potentially threaten America’s personal data.”

Both TikTok and WeChat did not respond to VOA’s request for comment.

TikTok, a social networking app for sharing short, user-generated videos, and WeChat, an app that includes messaging, social media, and payment platforms, both collect extensive data about their users. The main concern is that the Chinese government will have access to this data and could potentially use it for espionage or extortion. U.S. officials are also concerned that the serious censorship of these applications will result in biased political opinions and a greater dissemination of misinformation.

A ban on WeChat and TikTok, a disconnected world and two internet

Some of America’s closest allies’ policy analysts welcome the Trump administration’s latest approach

The American Civil Liberties Union applauded Biden’s move, but warned to ‘take us on the same wrong path by serving as a smokescreen for future bans or other illegal actions’ with the requirement of a new security review. The rights group sees the Trump era ban as a violation of the rights to first amendment.

Senator Josh Hawley criticized Biden’s move, calling it a “big mistake.”

It “shows worrying complacency about China’s access to Americans’ personal information, as well as China’s growing corporate influence,” he said on Twitter.

Chinese Commerce Department spokesman Gao Feng said in a daily briefing on Thursday that the repeal of the Trump-era ban was “a step in the right direction” and that officials hoped Chinese businesses would be “treated fairly”. word.

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