The future of TikTok in the United States is in jeopardy as Chinese parent company ByteDance faces pressure to sell its stake or risk a ban. This has left many American users of the popular video app uncertain about what this means for them.
Some TikTok users might try to get around a possible ban by connecting to the app through a virtual private network (VPN).However, it is uncertain whether this workaround will be successful.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is figuring out what risks the app might pose to national security and what can be done to reduce those risks.The committee may recommend that President Joe Biden order the unwinding of ByteDance’s 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly, a precursor to TikTok, which would force a sale of those assets.
TikTok has suggested a mitigation plan as an alternative to a forced sale, but it is unlikely to work since CFIUS has already threatened to ban ByteDance if it doesn’t sell its stake.
A forced sale would be a complex process since it would require undoing a transaction that took place several years ago. The Trump administration previously attempted this route, but it was unsuccessful. If the US government pushes for a forced sale again, China is likely to oppose it since it argues that TikTok operates independently in the US.
Lindsay Gorman, a senior fellow for emerging technologies at the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, says that how aggressively China responds will depend on its calculations.
Should a ban on TikTok occur, the exact outcome is uncertain. Oracle is the cloud hosting service for all TikTok usage in the US, while internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon direct traffic to end users. Apple and Google control the app stores that allow consumers to download the TikTok app.
Shannon Reaves, a partner in Stroock’s CFIUS compliance group, stated that CFIUS would not take action against third parties such as Apple and Google. Instead, the US government might have to use laws or executive orders to force app distributors, ISPs, and cloud services to block access to TikTok.
The future of TikTok in the US is unclear right now, and this is something that should be kept an eye on.