With Beijing opposed to a TikTok sale, the Biden administration’s options are narrowing

With Beijing opposed to a TikTok sale, the Biden administration’s options are narrowing

With Beijing opposed to a TikTok sale, the Biden administration's options are narrowing

The Biden administration recently told TikTok that it wants the app’s Chinese owners to sell their shares or face a possible ban in the United States. But that plan met a new roadblock on Thursday when the Chinese government said it would oppose a sale.

If the White House can’t force a sale, that would effectively leave it with two options to address concerns that TikTok could expose Americans’ data to Beijing or act as a conduit for misinformation.

  • The White House could try to ban the app in the United States, possibly by cutting off its access to Apple and Google’s app stores. But that might not be possible without congressional legislation giving more power to the administration. After former President Donald J. Trump tried to ban the app, federal courts ruled he lacked the authority to do so, limiting the options available to President Biden.

  • The administration could also revise a deal it had been negotiating with TikTok for years that would allow it to continue operating in the United States. According to the proposal, the app would store its US users’ data on Oracle servers in America. The US company is also reportedly monitoring how the app’s algorithm recommends content to users, as a possible safeguard against the app being used to spread Chinese government disinformation and propaganda. But that proposal has been met with skepticism by some key administration players, including those in the Justice Department and the White House.

Any decision to remove the app, either banning it from 150 million users in the United States or blocking further downloads, would also be politically burdensome for Mr Biden. No one has summed up the political dilemma better than Gina Raimondo, the Secretary of Commerce, who is at the center of new export controls imposed on high-tech products to China.

“The politician in me thinks you’re literally going to lose every voter under 35, forever,” she recently told Bloomberg News.

Raimondo and other officials are quick to add that bad policy is no reason to waive a total ban if the threat to national security warrants it. The issue is made more complex by the fact that some of the world’s biggest news organizations, including the New York Times, now have TikTok accounts, which means shutting down the app could appear to stop the spread of factual news. to counter Chinese disinformation.


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