Biden Administration Asks U.S. Court to Dismiss Justice Department’s Previous Appeal of TikTok Ruling

The Biden administration asked two federal appeals courts on Monday (July 12) to reject an appeal by the Trump-era Justice Department against the court’s ruling, Reuters reported. The Trump administration had issued a ban on new downloads of TikTok, an overseas version of Chinese short-video sharing app Jitterbug, but the court ruling prevented the ban from taking effect.

President Biden last month rescinded a series of executive orders issued by former President Trump that sought to ban new downloads of WeChat, the overseas version of WeChat, TikTok and other Chinese apps in the U.S. and ordered a new review.

The U.S. Commerce Department on June 22 formally rescinded a list issued last September banning transactions with TikTok, owned by ByteTok Inc. and WeChat, owned by Tencent Inc. that sought to ban downloads of the two apps.

The U.S. Justice Department said Monday that the administration’s previous appeal is now moot. It asked the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the Third Circuit to dismiss the DOJ’s previously filed appeal.

In a separate lawsuit, the DOJ said in a filing with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that it hasn’t decided how to carry forward an appeal it previously filed against a lower court ruling. The ruling blocks restrictions that the Trump administration tried to impose on WeChat.

The Justice Department said it is in talks with the legal teams of WeChat users who previously sued the Justice Department “about the appropriate next steps for this appeal.” The DOJ plans to inform the court of its decision by July 26.

During Trump’s presidency, the Commerce Department also sought to ban other transactions that would have effectively banned the use of WeChat in the U.S. The Commerce Department later sought similar restrictions to ban the use of TikTok. The court prevented all of these restrictions from taking effect.

Biden’s executive order directs the Commerce Department to focus on software applications such as TikTok that could affect U.S. national security and to make recommendations within 120 days to prevent companies controlled by foreign adversaries from holding or reading U.S. data.

Commerce Secretary Raimondo said in a June 28 interview with Reuters that the Commerce Department’s review “is just beginning” and will include an “evidence-based” analysis.

“The focus of this executive order is to take really strong steps to protect Americans from having their data collected and used by foreign adversaries,” Raimondo told Reuters.

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

That Trump order directed government officials to ban transactions with eight Chinese apps, including Ant Group’s Alipay as well as Tencent’s QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay. The ban was not made public.

Another U.S. national security review of TikTok was launched in late 2019 and is still ongoing.