US President Joe Biden has temporarily paused all legal action against TikTok and WeChat as it reviews the previous administration’s claims of their threat to national security.
Last week, the Biden administration petitioned two different US courts, seeking suspension of cases against TikTok and WeChat.
The newly-appointed Commerce Department officials have initiated “an evaluation of the underlying record justifying those prohibitions”, the US Department of Justice said in a filing.
“The government will then be better positioned to determine … [whether] the regulatory purpose of protecting the security of Americans and their data, continue to warrant the identified prohibitions,” the DoJ filing said.
Former US president Donald Trump had issued an order in September last year, barring people in the US from downloading TikTok and WeChat in 45 days. Both companies subsequently approached the court seeking suspension of the order.
WeChat, which has more than one billion users globally, has very limited presence in the US. The country accounts for only 2 per cent of its revenue.
TikTok has about 800 million users worldwide, of which 100 million are in the US. It has previously said the US ban will have a major impact on its global growth since content created and shared by US users is “highly exportable” to other English-speaking markets like the UK, Canada and Australia.
ByteDance-owned TikTok has been at the heart of the Trump administration's efforts to curb what it considered as a growing dominance of Chinese tech apps, which it claimed collect US citizens' data. TikTok has repeatedly denied such allegations, saying it does not collect or sell American citizens' data.
The Trump administration, in its final days, also signed an order banning US transactions with eight other Chinese software apps in 45 days. These included Tencent Holdings’ QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay, CamScanner, SHAREit, VMate and WPS Office.
However, Mr Biden has sought to halt such decisions as his government reviews the rationale behind the ban.
A sale of TikTok's US operations to a consortium including tech giant Oracle and e-commerce company Walmart has also reportedly been deferred amid a review by the new US administration.