TikTok’s ever-impending sale to an American company will remain in limbo a bit longer, President Biden’s administration told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. A new group formed by Oracle and Walmart had been preparing to head up TikTok’s American operations, but the National Security Council is delaying these plans until it can better grasp Trump’s crackdown on Chinese tech companies.
In 2020, Trump and TikTok engaged in a months-long squabble. More than 100 million Americans like and post viral lip-synching and dance videos on TikTok, but the video sharing app is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance. Trump argued that TikTok posed a security concern to our country and provided the Chinese government with easy access to U.S. citizens’ data. His claim wasn’t too far-fetched, but also was never proven.
In August, Trump issued an executive order that read more like ultimatum, threatening to block TikTok unless an American company bought it within 45 days. The deadline came and went somewhat unnoticed. A lawsuit in December eventually blocked Trump’s ban.
Still, American companies wanted in. As a team, Oracle and Walmart beat out Microsoft and scored a deal to purchase a 20 percent stake in TikTok. Even though the agreement, announced in the fall, was riddled with problems, it still received Trump’s blessing. But not Biden’s, yet. Perhaps notably, as the Wall Street Journal points out, Peter Harrell, a senior director of the National Security Council, tweeted in support of TikTok’s ban over the summer. And Trump’s ban on Huawei has remained untouched, though Jake Sullivan, a Biden adviser on national security, was critical of Trump’s desire to drive out Chinese tech companies.
“I will note, broadly speaking, that we are comprehensively evaluating the risks to U.S. data including from TikTok and will address them in a decisive and effective fashion,” Biden press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday morning. She didn’t give a timeline for this review, though it may be forced to move quickly. Next week, a Trump-era executive order to ban U.S. transactions on WeChat and other Chinese owned apps is set to take effect. TikTok will not be affected by this—but whether it goes through could foretell TikTok’s future.
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.