Despite TikTok's latest deadline expiring, which would have seen all US downloads of the app banned this past weekend, the app remains available, and in operation, for American users, at least for the time being.
While the US Government has given preliminary approval for the Oracle/Walmart takeover offer for TikTok to progress, as yet, there's no official deal in place, and as such TikTok was set to be banned in US app stores yesterday, in line with the original Executive Order.
But as with the White House's ban on WeChat, a US court has now blocked the move, allowing TikTok to maintain regular operations as the details of the deal are finalized.
To recap, on August 6th, US President Donald Trump issued two Executive Orders, which outlined separate bans on the operations of Chinese-owned social apps TikTok and WeChat within the US. Both orders were set to go into effect 45 days after they were issued, which meant that all downloads of TikTok and WeChat would have been banned on September 20th.
However, days before the original deadline, TikTok announced that it has made significant progress in arranging a takeover deal, which lead to the US Department of Commerce issuing TikTok with an extension on the proposed ban till September 27th, giving it more time to finalize the deal. WeChat, meanwhile, challenged its ban in court, and a US Magistrate ruled that the ban could not go ahead, due to lack of evidence in relation to the concern that the app could be a threat to national security.
It seems that TikTok has argued along similar lines, and now, it too will avoid an app store ban in the US. There's currently no timeline on the new ruling, which was issued by the US District Court in Washington just hours before TikTok was set to be removed from availability.
TikTok issued a short statement on the ruling yesterday, saying:
"We're pleased that the court agreed with our legal arguments and issued an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok app ban. We will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees. At the same time, we will also maintain our ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the President gave his preliminary approval to last weekend, into an agreement."
September 28, 2020
It's the latest in the messy takeover of TikTok, with the US Government, pushing for complete separation of the app from its Chinese parent company, in order to protect US user data and stop potential interference by the Chinese Government. President Trump has also said that the ban is, in part, a form of punishment for China over the spread of COVID-19. It's unclear which element is the bigger concern in the US Government's ban action.
In the days leading up to the weekend deadline, US officials had said that there would be no appealing the TikTok ban this time, with some noting that doing so would look bad for the Trump administration and its authority in such matters. And while the official explanation for the latest ruling has not yet been released, it's expected that TikTok's legal team argued along the same lines as WeChat's defense - that while there is speculation that these apps could share data with the CCP, and could distribute pro-China messaging, the evidence of such is not sufficient to a full ban at this stage.
So, right now, TikTok remains unchanged, and continues to be available for US users as normal, and it'll likely remain that way until the details of the Oracle/Walmart takeover deal are finalized, one way or another. If the deal falls through, which is still a possibility, TikTok could still face a full ban in the US on November 12th.
Details of the separation arrangement are set to be challenging, with the parties working to appease both the US and Chinese governments in the deal.
So while we are further along in establishing TikTok's future in the US, there is still some way to go.
We'll have to wait and see what happens between now and November.