Honestly, it feels like such a long time ago that the US Government issued an Executive Order which called for the sale of TikTok to a US business, or it would face a full ban in the region. So much has happened since then, but going on the technical details of the initial EO, TikTok should have been either sold or banned in the US by now.
But it hasn’t been, and it isn’t.
After a range of court challenges and judgments, the timeline for the TikTok sell-off has been extended and changed multiple times, but the most recent, still standing deadline from the original Order stated that TikTok needed to be sold to a US company by December 4th, or it would be banned outright.
But that, of course, was last Friday, and TikTok is still here. Why is that?
According to The New York Times, the deadline for a TikTok sell-off has not been extended (again), but at the same time, the US Government has “no plans to take no immediate action in response to the lapsed cutoff”. Officials will reportedly allow the ongoing takeover discussions between TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, and its chosen suitors, in an Oracle/Walmart led consortium, to continue, with a view to a sell-off of the app in the near future.
But if that doesn’t happen, no one seems to be clear on what comes next.
As noted, various court challenges have found the basis of the original White House Executive Order to be inadequate, due to a lack of evidence to support claims of alleged spying, censorship, and more. Numerous concerns have been raised with respect to TikTok’s possible sharing of user data with the Chinese Government, but thus far, there’s no evidence to suggest that this has occurred, which is why the TikTok ban has not been enacted.
Instead, it’s been pushed out, with deadlines extended to resolve the situation amicably. But as more and more challenges have been heard and upheld – including one from a group of TikTok influencers who successfully argued that the ban would harm their livelihood – it’s become increasingly clear that the original EO will not stand, and that the US Government would need to either produce new evidence or take an alternate approach, in order to impose sanctions on the app.
Which it could do, but that would require more direct action under the President’s national security powers, and with various other concerns weighing on his mind at present, it seems that TikTok is the least of President Trump’s considerations.
So, TikTok, as it currently stands, won’t be banned, even if it’s not sold off, but the negotiations over its sale to the Oracle/Walmart group are still ongoing. In theory, at least.
It actually seems like the negotiations may be on hold until the new President is sworn in, and if Biden doesn’t see TikTok as a significant threat, in the way that Trump did, it seems likely that the case will simply fade away.
Right now, there’s no impact – TikTok remains available, as normal, and remains under the ownership of ByteDance. Whether that will change in the future, we don’t know, as there’s now no deadline for a sale, and no defined path for future action if it isn’t sold off.
By February, we should have a clearer view, but it seems likely that for all the discussion and debate, TikTok will continue on its march toward a billion users.