It’s been a minute since we last feared we’d lose TikTok forever. But, despite being on thin ice for the last four months, TikTok has been as vibrant and surprising a platform as ever, serving as a much-needed home to debate memes, reactions to Trump’s COVID diagnosis, presidential prank calls, boys in maid outfits, and so much more.
November 12 was supposed to be a big day for TikTok. After the Trump administration’s attempt to quickly ban TikTok — a swift, merciless slashing of China’s connection with American consumers — failed, becoming a drawn-out series of lawsuits, court orders, and injunctions, the platform reached an agreement with Walmart and Oracle in September. The president approved. But that wasn’t the end of the problems for TikTok, because the U.S. Commerce Department had given TikTok until November 12th to resolve the very nebulous “national security concerns” that triggered the ban in the first place.
The process has been frustrating for TikTok: The Walmart-Oracle deal met Trump’s requirements that the U.S. operations of the app be transferred over to an American-owned company and that a portion of that transaction go straight into the U.S. government’s pocket. But the U.S. government had yet to approve the transaction. There was a real fear that yesterday could be a dark day for TikTok lovers. Earlier this week, TikTok’s comms team Tweeted: “Facing continual new requests and no clarity on whether our new solutions would be accepted, we requested the 30-day extension that is expressly permitted in the August 14 order.”
And, according to TikTok, working with this administration is just like doing all the work in a group project. The earlier Tweet also noted that the company has provided “detailed solutions to finalize that agreement – but have received no substantive feedback on our extensive data privacy and security framework.” It seems the administration is setting deadlines it then ignores and is making unending requests with no intention of working with TikTok to address anything.
The good news, though, is that the government’s ineptitude has extended to its decision not to implement the TikTok ban yet. In part, that may be because the Trump administration is throwing all its resources into contesting Biden’s victory and securing a second term. Also, it turns out that major sales of huge international social media platforms between countries with decades of trade animosity aren’t as easy as you’d think. There are international laws to consider, trade agreements to honor, Chinese laws, American laws, regulatory bodies to consult, and plain old business interests to take into account.
TikTok is safe for now — and it has been focused on fighting for its right to survive in the U.S. market. But with a president who is also fighting for his right to survive, it seems like TikTok might have to resolve its ban all by itself.
Refinery29 reached out to TikTok for comment and we’ll update the story as soon as we hear back.