The Biden administration is still considering whether to proceed with attempts to ban the video app TikTok and messaging app WeChat, according to court papers filed this week.
“New and incoming leadership at the Department of Commerce and other interested agencies need additional time to consider potential options,” lawyers for the Department of Justice wrote this week in status reports filed with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The controversy over both apps dates to last August, when former President Donald Trump said in an executive order that the Chinese-owned services posed a security risk. The Commerce Department subsequently issued regulations that would have resulted in a ban on TikTok and WeChat.
Users of both apps challenged the Commerce Department's actions in court. In WeChat's case, users argued that the app is essential to Chinese speakers in the U.S.
The TikTok ban was challenged in several different lawsuits, including one brought by influencers who said they stood to lose income if the ban went forward.
Last year, U.S. District Court Magistrate Laurel Beeler in the Northern District of California sided with the WeChat users and entered an injunction barring the government from enforcing a ban on WeChat downloads.
A different federal judge, Wendy Beetlestone in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, enjoined the government from proceeding with the TikTok ban. Beetlestone said the ban wasn't authorized by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
The Trump administration appealed both rulings, taking the battle over WeChat to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the fight regarding TikTok to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
In both cases, the Biden administration said in February that it needed more time to decide how to proceed. The appellate courts stayed the cases, and directed the government to file status reports within 60 days.
This week, the White House requested an additional 60 days to evaluate the situation.
“Revision or withdrawal of the prohibitions would likely affect the issues presented by this appeal, and may eliminate the need for this Court’s review entirely,” government lawyers wrote in both cases. “The agency thus requires additional time to review the prohibitions and the underlying administrative record in light of the multiple legal issues presented in this appeal, to consult with all interested federal agencies and offices, and to determine the appropriate course going forward.”
Earlier this year, TikTok suspended an effort to sell a stake in its company to Oracle and Walmart, given the Biden administration's review.