President Joe Biden is reducing some uncertainty faced by Chinese tech companies in the United States, erasing parts of the Trump-era legacy. The president signed an executive order revoking actions targeting TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese apps put forward by former President Donald Trump, according to a statement released by the White House on Wednesday.
Instead, President Biden signed a new order requiring the Commerce Department to review apps with ties to “jurisdiction of foreign adversaries” that may pose national security risks.
The Biden order withdraws two orders by former President Trump, one of which was issued in August and sought to block U.S. business transactions with TikTok and WeChat. The other, announced in January, targeted eight Chinese services including WeChat’s payment feature, Tencent’s QQ messenger, and Ant Group’s Alipay wallet.
The orders to ban TikTok and WeChat in the U.S. had been blocked by federal court jurisdictions. Separately, the Trump administration’s attempt to force a sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations was also shelved.
The “increased use in the United States of certain connected software applications designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by persons owned or controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of, a foreign adversary,” which the Secretary of Commerce has defined to include China among others, “continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
Scrutiny over Chinese tech firms will most likely remain a high priority for U.S. regulators, but policies may be more methodical under the presidency of Joe Biden. Chinese companies coveting the U.S. market will have to be better prepared for data compliance challenges.
The order directs the secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the secretary of State, the secretary of Defense, the attorney general, the secretary of Health and Human Services, the secretary of Homeland Security, the director of National Intelligence, and the heads of other agencies as the secretary of Commerce deems appropriate, to recommend actions to protect Americans’ data on platforms owned or controlled by a “foreign adversary” within 120 days.
It’s no secret that American tech companies like Facebook and Google also collect large amounts of user data, but the “scope and scale” of TikTok’s app’s data collection makes it easier for Chinese spies to answer “all kinds of different intelligence questions” on U.S. nationals, Anne Neuberger, NSA’s director of cybersecurity, told TechCrunch at Disrupt 2020. She said there were “greater concerns on how [China] in particular could use all that information collected against populations other than its own.”
Chinese tech firms have produced a raft of top-ranking apps in the U.S. TikTok, which has been working to make Singapore its beachhead following the U.S. government’s attempted ban, came in second among the free apps on the U.S. App Store as of writing. CapCut, a video-editing app also owned by ByteDance app, has seen a surge in downloads in the U.S. recently. Mobile games from Tencent and smaller studios continue to rack up big bucks in the U.S., and fast-fashion shopping app Shein is outpacing Amazon’s growth in the country.
The U.S. Department of Commerce, Tencent and ByteDance could not be immediately reached for comment.
Updated the story with more information on the revocation.
Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster
Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.
Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update
On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.
Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete. We have also extended our advice for product review creators: https://t.co/N4rjJWoaqE
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) December 1, 2021
The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.
A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:
“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.
Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.
Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”
Continue Reading Below
Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.
The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.
The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.
The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.
Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update
Product Review Update Targets More Languages?
The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.
Continue Reading Below
But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.
This is his question:
“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.
So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.
…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”
John Mueller answered:
“I don’t know… like other languages?
My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.
But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.
But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.
I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.
But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.
And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.
So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.
But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”
Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?
While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.
Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.
One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.
It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.
Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update
Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines
John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global
Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark
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