How Donald Trump lost the war on TikTok

“Please follow us on Instagram before TikTok is gone,” begged Self Defense Online, a mixed martial arts TikTok. user, August 1st. “Go follow me on IG so we don’t lose touch when TikTok is deleted and we can continue to have fun together!” dance teacher Julie Haneline pleaded that same day.

These videos have been ubiquitous for a brief time this summer, and for good reason. As far as many TikTok makers were aware, the app they had grown to love, which gave them a platform and occupied their days and nights in quarantine, was on the verge of demise.

But this apocalyptic scenario did not happen. As president, Donald Trump’s reasons for targeting TikTok – national security, data confidentiality or personal vendetta– has never crystallized into a coherent strategy. In fact, neither of the two executive decrees and the various measures the administration has taken to ban, reorganize or disturb TikTok has materialized. With his presidency ending on Wednesday, TikTok won a somewhat unlikely battle, partly because the law was on his side but also because Trump seemed to have lost interest when his term ended.

The outcome is best for TikTok, its parent company ByteDance, and the ecosystem of users, creators, and marketers who rely on the app. Unless Joe Biden chooses to pursue the case, which experts have told Adweek is extremely unlikely, TikTok is here to stay.

In fact, it’s booming. TikTok has continued to grow since Trump’s regulatory blitz, doubling its active user base in 2020. As of November, it had 48 million active US adult users, according to Comscore. That number is 45 million in August, when the decrees were signed, and 22 million users last January.

The next shiny object

“What we’re seeing here is a lack of prioritization and focus on behalf of the Trump administration,” said Alec Stapp, head of technology policy at the Liberal Progressive Policy Institute. “If Trump didn’t spend his time on the phone with the Georgian Secretary of State trying to overturn the election, maybe he could actually instruct his administration and the people who work for him to really focus on this. question.

Stapp said the whole ordeal with TikTok was likely just scrapped when Trump “moved on to the next shiny object,” and recently he has been “obsessed, really monomaniacally” with Section 230, a key law on the liability of Internet companies.

Other experts have agreed that while most of Trump’s recent political will has been aimed at securing Article 230 repealed through the defense authorization invoice—An effort that ultimately failed—Trump could have more easily gotten the Foreign Investment Committee (CFIUS) to close the TikTok deal around this time.

The administration brokered a deal with Oracle and Walmart, two Trump-friendly US companies, in which they would buy a fifth handset from a new company, called TikTok Global, and Trump. gave the deal its informal ‘blessing’ in September.

While the Oracle-Walmart deal wouldn’t have done much at all to address data privacy concerns, ByteDance accepted it. Then the Trump administration let the company miss all deadlines to complete the deal.

TikTok and Oracle spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while a Walmart spokesperson declined to comment.

In recent interviews, tech policy experts said Biden would likely reject the divestment order and end any Justice Department litigation over the trade order, which is still under appeal. in the federal court system.

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