Biden Saves TikTok From the Clutches of Walmart and Oracle (for Now)
If only everything else from 2020 could lose relevance this quickly: The Wall Street Journal reports that the Biden administration is putting a halt to the Trump administration’s forced sale of TikTok, which had resulted in an unholy alliance between ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company), Oracle, and Walmart. After the deal was approved last fall, progress stalled, and now it has been fully paused by the new administration.
“We plan to develop a comprehensive approach to securing U.S. data that addresses the full range of threats we face,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne told the WSJ. “This includes the risk posed by Chinese apps and other software that operate in the U.S. In the coming months, we expect to review specific cases in light of a comprehensive understanding of the risks we face.”
The potential sale was prompted by concerns from the former administration that ByteDance, a Chinese company, was misusing American users’ data, although no evidence of this was ever presented. TikTok launched numerous legal challenges to the ruling, and a handful of individual TikTok creators even mounted one of their own.
Biden has been cautious of the app: He reportedly instructed his campaign staffers to delete TikTok over the summer, and the Biden Digital Coalition’s Olivia Sullivan told us his campaign had declined to put Biden himself on the platform.
“I was definitely bothering them, like, ‘We have to connect with Gen-Z voters,’” she said. “The Trump TikTok pages have 1.5 million followers. They've been promoting Trump for the last two years on the app and there was basically no presence for Joe Biden.”
In September, Biden told reporters that the Chinese ownership of TikTok was a matter of “genuine concern.” But perhaps Biden took heed, unlike Trump, of the CIA’s conclusion that there was no evidence that the Chinese government had access to Americans’ TikTok data.