TikTok Wins Yet Another Legal Reprieve, Keeping it Running in the US

Could TikTok still be banned in the US?

Honestly, right now it’s difficult to say. Back in August, US President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order which expressly ruled that the app must be sold to a US-owned business, or it would face a full ban in the nation due to national security concerns related to its Chinese ownership.

But since then, a raft of legal challenges have seemingly rendered the original EO ineffective, with a kind of domino effect of legal precedent flowing over into the next case, then the next – to the point were, right now, no one really seems to know what comes next.

To simplify the process as much as possible, here’s a quick track of the original Executive Orders, and the legal challenges that have come since.

  • August 6th, 2020 – US President Donald Trump issues two Executive Orders which outline separate bans on Chinese-owned social apps TikTok and WeChat within the US due to national security concerns. The orders rule that the apps can avoid a ban by being sold to US ownership within 45 days. 
  • September 19th – A day before the ban is set to take effect, TikTok announces significant progress in a US takeover deal, with a consortium lead by Oracle and Walmart to buy the US operations of TikTok. The US Department of Commerce grants an extension, giving TikTok till September 27th to finalize the details of the proposed takeover.
  • September 20th – WeChat wins challenge against White House Executive Order in a US court, citing a lack of evidence for the concerns leveled against it. WeChat remains available in the US.
  • September 27th – Hours before TikTok’s app store ban is set to take effect, another element of the White House action. TikTok also wins its own appeal against the White House EO, citing the WeChat case as precedent. TikTok App Store ban is put on hold.
  • October 30th – A group of TikTok stars win their own legal challenge against White House EO on TikTok, citing earnings impact as a result of a ban. The TikTok app store ban is shelved pending appeal. 

Which brings us to the latest TikTok deadline of note – today, the District Court of Columbia has granted TikTok an additional 15 days to finalize its proposed sale to the Oracle/Walmart consortium, as per the original EO, and separate itself from Chinese ownership. This means that TikTok has until November 27th to get the sale approved by the US Government, or else it could face…

Well, that’s now in debate.

As per CNN:

“The order doesn’t specify any penalties or consequences if the deadline is breached. That’s created fresh questions about the government’s intentions toward TikTok.”

TikTok referred to this lingering element of the legal process earlier in the week, noting that while it’s been trying to engage the US Government, in order to meet the requirements of the original Order, no one’s been communicating what they need to do.

It seems that, in the rush of the election campaign, and the array of legal challenges against the original Order, the Trump Administration has seemingly overlooked the TikTok push, leaving TikTok itself unclear about what happens next. 

So now, it looks like, probably, that TikTok may or may not be sold by November 27th, and if it is, it remains in the US. And if it isn’t, it likely remains in the US anyway.

Clear? Clarified? Good.

Honestly, based on legal precedent set by the previous cases against the White House EO, it doesn’t seem like the US Government has any standing, with every other judge citing a lack of evidence to justify the stated national security concerns. But the White House can utilize its national security powers to enforce such action, so there is still a chance that it could take things to another level, if it decided it needed to. 

Whether that would be plausible is also up for debate – and this, of course, is before we even consider what happens to TikTok under a Biden-lead presidency, with the former Vice President still set to take office, based on the current estimations.

According to reports, a Biden administration is not as concerned about TikTok, and its potential ties to China.

As per The Denver Post

“Robert Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, which is funded by U.S. tech companies, said the TikTok ban was “much more of a Trump issue” that Biden might drop.”

Indeed, additional reports have suggested that the proposed Oracle-lead deal for TikTok is likely to come under heavy scrutiny by the Biden Administration, and is unlikely to be approved.

So maybe TikTok just needs to keep delaying, keep getting extensions, till the next stage is clear – but then again, if it does nothing, and just waits to see what the current adminstration does, maybe nothing happens to it either way.

It’s all pretty confusing, but right now, I would be betting on TikTok remaining in operation, under its current ownership, into the new year, when the new administration will need to decide what steps it takes, or doesn’t, next.

In summary, TikTok remains in operation, unchanged, till November 27th, when the next ruling will point to what, if anything, happens next with its US operations.

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