The Biden administration says it is reviewing former president Donald Trump’s proposed ban of the Chinese messaging app WeChat in the US, a day after announcing a similar pause to consider the fate of the video app TikTok.
In a court filing, the new administration requested a hold on legal proceedings related to Trump’s efforts to ban WeChat by executive order over national security concerns. The case had been subject to an appeal hearing.
The motion follows a similar request on Wednesday to delay the legal fight over another Trump-issued executive order that would have prevented US users from accessing Chinese-owned viral video app TikTok.
According to Thursday’s filing, the commerce department had “begun a review of certain recently issued agency actions” including the proposed WeChat ban, and now plans to “conduct an evaluation of the underlying record justifying the prohibitions”. The government added that officials would provide a status update in 60 days.
WeChat is Tencent’s flagship social media platform, combining messaging, online shopping, payments and other features into one so-called super app. Of its more than 1bn users, many are China based, but the app is also a popular communication tool for many ethnic Chinese people living in the US and advocates had been angered by its potential ban.
In September a California judge temporarily blocked the ban of the app just hours before it was due to be implemented, citing concerns that it could violate the first amendment to the US constitution that protects freedom of speech, particularly for Chinese Americans.
The Biden administration has signalled that it will maintain a tough stance towards China, including making sure that it cannot obtain American technology and data that could threaten US national security.
But officials say President Joe Biden is taking a deliberative approach to evaluating all of the China-related actions his predecessor took in office.
Ahead of a phone call between Biden and Chinese president Xi Jinping on Wednesday, a senior US official said the new administration would be very vigilant about technology issues and would employ targeted restrictions on exporting sensitive technology, but stressed that Washington would co-ordinate with its allies over such moves.