In spite of reports indicating that TikTok won’t have to make concessions under the Biden administration, a case involving the controversial short-form video-sharing platform has been refiled as “TikTok Inc., et al, v. Joseph R. Biden, Jr.” in a federal appeals court.
A recently submitted motion to hold the lawsuit in abeyance, “with status reports due at 60-day intervals,” reveals that the federal government’s potential prohibition of the ByteDance-owned app hasn’t been shelved under the new administration.
To be sure, President Biden is now listed as a defendant-appellate in the courtroom confrontation, which stemmed from an initial August of 2020 executive order that former President Trump signed. The measure called for the ban of transactions within TikTok, owing to national security concerns, after 45 days.
ByteDance subsequently engaged in talks to sell its stateside interest in TikTok – which has been permanently banned in India because of privacy issues and threats to national security – to an American company by the end of this 45-day period and subsequent deadlines. But a judge in September blocked TikTok’s removal from app stores, and another judge did the same in December.
However, this latest legal filing raises questions about whether TikTok and ByteDance are in fact out of the woods in terms of a possible stateside ban. The document strikes a decidedly noncommittal tone when discussing the fate of the ordered ban, indicating that a review of Commerce Department TikTok restrictions will enable the government “to determine whether the national security threat described in the” August executive order still warrants “the identified prohibitions.”
“The Department of Commerce remains committed to a robust defense of national security as well as ensuring the viability of our economy and preserving individual rights and data privacy,” continues the order, which TikTok and its legal team did not oppose.
The outcome of this review – and, in turn, TikTok’s future in the U.S. – will be worth looking out for in the coming weeks and months. A number of individuals and lawsuits have raised far-reaching questions concerning the security of TikTok users’ personal info and the point’s broader significance in the context of national security.
TikTok, which was fined $5.7 million in 2019 for allegedly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), was targeted by some 20 child advocacy groups in an FTC complaint last May. Separately, the platform is facing a privacy-centered class-action lawsuit from Illinois residents. Following a source-code leak in January of 2021, a hacker described TikTok as “legitimate spyware.”