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Biden administration asks courts to dismiss government appeals of TikTok ruling

Published 07/12/2021, 04:28 PM
Updated 07/12/2021, 07:45 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The TikTok app's logo seen on a mobile phone screen in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Illustration

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration on Monday asked two federal appeals courts to dismiss the Justice Department's legal challenges to court rulings that barred a Trump-era effort to ban new downloads of Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok.

Last month, President Joe Biden withdrew a series of executive orders issued by former President Donald Trump that sought to ban new downloads of WeChat, TikTok and other Chinese apps and ordered a new review.

The Commerce Department on June 22 formally withdrew a list of prohibited transactions with ByteDance-owned TikTok and Tencent-owned WeChat issued in September that sought to bar downloads of the apps.

The Justice Department said Monday that the government's legal challenges were now moot. It asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the Third Circuit to dismiss its appeals.

Separately, the Justice Department said in a filing with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that it had not decided how to proceed in its appeal of a lower court ruling blocking restrictions on WeChat that the Trump administration had sought to put in place.

The government said it was in talks with lawyers for the WeChat users who had filed suit "about appropriate next steps in this appeal." The government plans to inform the court about its decision by July 26.

During Donald Trump's presidency, the Commerce Department had also sought to bar other transactions that would have effectively banned WeChat's use in the United States and later sought similar restrictions that would have barred TikTok's use. Courts blocked all those restrictions from taking effect.

The Biden order directed the Commerce Department to monitor software applications like TikTok that could affect U.S. national security, as well as to make recommendations within 120 days to protect U.S. data acquired or accessible by companies controlled by foreign adversaries.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Reuters in a June 28 interview that the department was "just getting started" with its review that will include an "evidence-based" analysis.

"The whole point of the executive order is to take really strong steps to protect Americans' data from collection and utilization by foreign adversaries," Raimondo said.

Biden's executive order also revoked another Trump order signed in January that targeted eight other communications and financial technology software applications.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The TikTok app's logo seen on a mobile phone screen in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Illustration

That Trump order directed officials to ban transactions with eight Chinese apps, including Ant Group's Alipay and Tencent's QQ Wallet and WeChat pay. No bans were issued.

A separate U.S. national security review of TikTok, launched in late 2019, remains active.

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