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US government extends deadline for Bytedance to circumvent TikTok ban

By | Published on Monday 16 November 2020


The US government last week announced that it had extended the deadline for TikTok owner Bytedance to offload its American assets or otherwise deal with concerns in Washington regarding TikTok user data. A new deadline has been set for 27 Nov.

President Donald Trump issued two executive orders against China-based Bytedance back in August. The first, due to come into effect in September, banned Americans from transacting with the Chinese firm. The second, due to come into effect last week, ordered the asset sell-off.

Both orders cited concerns that, because Bytedance is based in China, the Chinese government has access to TikTok’s global userbase and user data.

Both Bytedance and three TikTok creators have been trying to get the executive orders paused and ultimately overturned on the basis that, in those orders, Trump was using powers granted to the President by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, but that that act has limitations when it comes to “personal communications” or the sharing of “informational materials”.

Meanwhile, concurrent to the legal action, Bytedance has been trying to get approval from Trump’s government for a compromise that would see it going into business with American companies Oracle and Walmart. They would have equity in the global Bytedance business, and take responsibility for ensuring the safety of American user-data.

Trump himself initially seemed to approve that deal, although also seemed somewhat confused by what it involved. His government, meanwhile, is yet to formally sign off on the Oracle/Walmart alliance and confirm that, once that deal goes through, the executive orders against Bytedance and TikTok will be cancelled.

Bytedance previously secured an injunction delaying the September ban on Americans using TikTok, but last week returned to court over the second executive order. It said that it had been busy liaising with the US government in recent months seeking approval of its Oracle/Walmart deal, but that so far it had not got a firm answer regarding Team Trump’s position.

Seeking another injunction pausing the second executive order, Bytedance said in court last week: “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”.

However, shortly before the second executive order was due to come into force, the US government announced the extension. A spokesperson for the US Treasury Department then told reporters that said extension would allow both parties to “resolve this case in a manner that complies with the order”.

Whether another two weeks will be enough for Bytedance to get the approval it needs to keep TikTok operating in the US remains to be seen.