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As the Date for Trump’s Executive Order Becomes Imminent, What’s the Status of TikTok?

Over 100 million Americans are patiently awaiting the tumultuous decision regarding the future of everyone’s favorite form of social media; TikTok. The app—which is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese-based company—has faced immense upheaval during the summer of 2020. TikTok gained massive popularity as a result of shelter-in-place orders and recently became a target of the Trump administration as its influence has expanded. TikTok has primarily been under attack by the President’s administration due to allegations of infiltrating and collecting the data of American users despite a lack of evidence that the app is “spying” on its users. Trump has threatened to ban TikTok unless it is sold to an American company, with the two current front-runners of the exchange being Oracle and Microsoft. While the infamous September 15 deadline to decimate TikTok in the U.S. has been mentioned by Trump at various press briefings, executive orders frame the primary lookout dates for the app’s dissolution to be September 20 and November 12 of this fall. 

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The proscription of TikTok has become a complex battle between the U.S. and Chinese governments as well as the owner, ByteDance. On July 31, Trump benignly threatened to shut down the app in the U.S. within 24 hours. However, the timeline of TikTok’s demise has shifted as many legal conflicts and other nuances unfold. On August 3, Trump extended the time frame, giving ByteDance 45 days to sell the app to an American company. Three days later, an official executive order was implemented that would prohibit American companies from exchanging business deals with TikTok. An additional executive order was rolled out to be set into action on November 12 which commands that ByteDance completely divests from entertaining its American users by that date unless a sale, presumably with Microsoft or Oracle, is finalized. In response to these decrees, TikTok and ByteDance filed a lawsuit on August 24, claiming that the executive orders pose as a “pretext to fuel anti-China rhetoric.”

[bf_image id="fkfk8hbnppgfxb7f6q5gsjh6"] While this timeline may seem cut and dried, China has concerns regarding the sale, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, claiming that Washington is  “oppressing foreign companies.” This sentiment falls in line with the Chinese commerce ministry’s passage of a revised technology export control list on August 28 which would restrict the sale of TikTok’s prized algorithm unless ByteDance committed to the lengthy process of obtaining a license for the transaction. These recent restrictions make the app’s purchase less intriguing to American companies and new sources reveal that these obstacles may be tactical so that Beijing could control the shutdown of the app entirely rather than submissively selling it to an American company. 

[bf_image id="q6d9eg-3i3jm0-l5d2j"] So what’s the verdict? Well, based on the series of complex orders and backtracks by the Trump administration, it looks like the future of TikTok in the U.S. is still murky and largely dependent on the course that ByteDance, as well as the Chinese government, plan to take. In the midst of a pandemic and an upcoming presidential election, perhaps the Trump administration will reassess its priorities considering that TikTok doesn’t seem any worse than Facebook, Google, and many other apps in terms of data security. In the meantime, other social media platforms such as Instagram are taking advantage of TikTok’s potential downfall through developing similar technology with its Reels feature. Additionally, many members of the TikTok community are making preparations to revert to other social media apps such as Triller and Dubsmash as the beloved app’s extinction looms. 

Honor, Editor-in-Chief of UMass Amherst HC, is a senior honors student majoring in public health and psychology. In her free time, she loves to explore the outdoors on walks with her dog, listen to music and podcasts, decompress with her sketchbook, and experiment with new recipes.
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