National Security

TikTok sale shelved as Biden admin reviews security risks: report

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The Biden administration has reportedly shelved plans to force Chinese-owned ByteDance to sell the popular video-sharing app TikTok as it weighs potential security risks.

Former President Trump’s effort to force the sale of the app was incomplete before he left office, and President Biden is pushing back on pursuing a plan of his own as the administration reviews its predecessor’s efforts to address potential security risks from Chinese tech companies, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

National security officials and ByteDance representatives have continued discussions, people familiar with the plan told the Journal. 

“We plan to develop a comprehensive approach to securing U.S. data that addresses the full range of threats we face,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne told the Journal. “This includes the risk posed by Chinese apps and other software that operate in the U.S. In the coming months, we expect to review specific cases in light of a comprehensive understanding of the risks we face.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed during a briefing later Wednesday that the deal is still under review, but pushed back slightly on the reporting that the Biden administration would likely consider a different deal than the one proposed under Trump. 

“It’s not accurate to suggest that there is a new proactive step by the Biden White House,” Psaki said.  

“I would note broadly speaking, we are comprehensively evaluating … risks to U.S. data including from TikTok and will address them in a decisive and effective fashion,” she added. 

Psaki declined to share details regarding a timeframe for the evaluation.  

A spokesperson for TikTok was not immediately available to The Hill for comment. 

Trump had sought to overhaul how the popular app operates in the U.S., alleging the company posed a threat to national security. TikTok has denied the allegations. 

Trump tentatively approved a deal that would have created a U.S.-based headquarter with Oracle and Walmart as partial owners, but the former administration extended the deadline and never reached a deal before President Biden came into office. 

In December, a Treasury Department spokesperson under the Trump administration said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States was still engaging with ByteDance to complete the divestment, but the department would not be extending the deadline.

Psaki said Wednesday there is still a “rigorous” ongoing CFIUS process.

The Treasury Department has not responded to multiple requests for comment regarding plans to push forward with the unfinished Trump administration deal. 

The Journal reported that any deal the Biden administration reaches would likely be different than the one Trump tentatively approved before he left office. 

TikTok has also continued to push back on the Trump administration’s push to force the sale of the app in court. TikTok asked a federal appeals court in Washington in November to vacate the order calling for the divestiture, and the case is still pending. 

Separate federal court rulings have blocked the government from shutting TikTok down. 

The government’s formal response to TikTok’s court challenge against Trump’s executive order is due later this month, the Journal noted. A spokesperson for the Justice Department was not immediately available for comment. 

Updated at 12:24 p.m.

Tags biden administration ByteDance Donald Trump Jen Psaki Joe Biden Oracle Security Social media Software tiktok
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