What Does a Joe Biden Presidency Mean for TikTok?
This week, TikTok sent a message that every 20-something is familiar with: Why are you ghosting me? While TikTok was seemingly all the Trump administration could talk about in late summer, the stress of the election—and the fact that Donald Trump was not elected to a second term—may have shifted their priorities a little bit. According to The Verge, TikTok hasn’t heard any updates about the ban in weeks. And with Joe Biden taking over on January 20, the app’s future is somehow even cloudier.
While a deal between TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart was approved in September, it still hasn’t been solidified, and today marks the November 12 deadline the company was given to sort itself out, before three TikTok creators successfully sued for a preliminary injunction. TikTok itself requested a 30-day extension to extricate itself from Chinese ownership, but quite literally has not heard back.
“Facing continual new requests and no clarity on whether our proposed solutions would be accepted, we requested the 30-day extension that is expressly permitted in the August 14 order,” TikTok said in a statement to The Verge. “Today, with the November 12 CFIUS deadline imminent and without an extension in hand, we have no choice but to file a petition in court to defend our rights and those of our more than 1,500 employees in the US. We remain committed to working with the Administration—as we have all along—to resolve the issues it has raised, but our legal challenge today is a protection to ensure these discussions can take place.”
At this point, it may be more productive to contemplate not what Trump will do with TikTok in his remaining months, but how Joe Biden will handle the app over the next four years. The President-elect instructed his campaign staffers to delete TikTok over the summer, in line with the DNC’s warnings to tread lightly around the app. And according to the Biden Digital Coalition’s Olivia Sullivan, the campaign declined to put Biden himself on the platform.
“I was definitely bothering them, like, ‘We have to connect with Gen-Z voters,’” Sullivan recently told me in a phone call. “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.”
Biden’s transition team does, however, include employees from companies like Airbnb, Amazon, Dell, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Lyft, Salesforce, Stripe, and Uber, suggesting that technology is a priority for his administration.
“I think that it’s a matter of genuine concern that TikTok, a Chinese operation, has access to over 100 million young people particularly in the United States of America,” Biden told reporters at a campaign stop in Minnesota in September.
TikTok has repeatedly denied accusations that it shares American user data with its Chinese owner, Bytedance, and the CIA also found no evidence to suggest it does. While that may not have been good enough for Trump, it’s likely Biden will take those facts a little more seriously.
In other words, Trump may be telling TikTok, “It’s not you. It’s me."