In a major reversal from former President Donald Trump, the Biden administration said Thursday it would temporarily halt and review a ban on Chinese messaging app WeChat, just a day after the administration made a similar announcement about TikTok.
In a court filing Thursday, the Biden administration said it will review the reasons why Trump banned the Chinese messaging app and decide whether the prohibition was warranted.
Trump’s ban was already blocked by an appeals court in October, but the Biden administration could still appeal up to the Supreme Court if it decides to move forward with the ban after its review.
The potential ban on WeChat faced widespread criticism last year because the platform, which is the most popular app in China, is a crucial tool for the Chinese diaspora to keep in touch with family and friends in mainland China. (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter and Google are blocked in the country).
The Biden administration made a similar move Wednesday with TikTok, saying it would review Trump’s effort to ban the video-sharing app and pause a deal forcing its sale to the U.S.-based companies Oracle and Walmart.
Trump’s original ban on WeChat and other Chinese-owned apps was part of the former administration’s larger battle against Chinese dominance in the global tech industry.
The Trump administration argued that WeChat and Tikok are national security threats because they could be forced to give the Chinese government data on U.S. users. TikTok has denied it would ever share data with the Chinese government, but concerns about WeChat appear to be more founded. Researchers found last year that the app already shares data on non-Chinese users with the Chinese government in order to train its censorship algorithms, which are used on Chinese users. Tencent said at the time that all “content shared among international users of WeChat is private.”