With Beijing Opposing TikTok Sales, Biden Administration's Options Are Narrowing

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

If the White House is unable to force a sale, it would effectively provide two options for resolving 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, perhaps by cutting off access to Apple and Google's app stores. But that may not be possible without legislation from Congress giving the government more powers. After former President Donald J. Trump tried to ban the app, federal courts ruled he lacked the power to do so, limiting the options available to President Biden.

  • The government could also review deals it has negotiated with TikTok for years that allowed it to continue operating in the United States. Under the proposal, the application will store US user data on Oracle servers in America. American companies will also monitor how app algorithms recommend content to users, as a possible safeguard against apps being used to spread Chinese government disinformation and propaganda. But the proposal was met with skepticism from some of the top administration players, including those in the Justice Department and the White House.

Any decision to remove the app, whether banning it for its 150 million users in the United States or blocking further downloads, will also have political implications for Mr Biden. No one sums up this political dilemma more sadly than Gina Raimondo, the trade secretary, who is at the center of new export controls imposed on high-tech goods to China.

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

Raimondo's mother and other officials were quick to add that bad politics is no reason to back down from a total ban if a threat to national security requires it. The problem is made more complex by the fact that some of the world's largest news organizations, including The New York Times, now have TikTok accounts, meaning that shutting down the app can look like stopping the spread of fact-based news to fight against. Chinese disinformation.