Biden Administration Presses Pause on Trump's Push for TikTok Ban While Reviewing Security Risks
President Joe Biden's administration is pressing pause on Donald Trump's attempt to ban TikTok in the U.S. or force its sale to American companies, PEOPLE confirms.
Trump, 74, had sought to ban the popular video sharing app in the U.S. last year through executive orders and the authority of the Department of Commerce. The matter ended up in court.
Arguing the Chinese-based TikTok presented security risks, the former president aimed to force a sale of the app's U.S. operations to American-based companies Oracle and Walmart.
The Wall Street Journal reported that attempted sale was now "shelved indefinitely," in light of the Biden administration's decision.
The Associated Press and NPR separately reported the Justice Department is now telegraphing to federal courts that it may drop its legal cases against ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok.
A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment when reached by PEOPLE.
Justice Department lawyer Casen Ross wrote in a new motion filed in federal court Wednesday, however, that the government was requesting an "abeyance" — or ongoing delay— while they review the Trump administration's decisions. Ross noted that the request was not opposed by TikTok's parent company.
"As the Biden Administration has taken office, the Department of Commerce has begun a review of certain recently issued agency actions, including the Secretary's prohibitions regarding the TikTok mobile application at issue in this appeal," Ross wrote.
He continued: "In relation to those prohibitions, the Department plans to conduct an evaluation of the underlying record justifying those prohibitions. The government will then be better positioned to determine whether the national security threat … and the regulatory purpose of protecting the security of Americans and their data, continue to warrant the identified prohibitions."
"A review of the prohibitions at issue here may narrow the issues presented or eliminate the need for this Court's review entirely," Ross wrote.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday the Biden administration was not preparing to take a "new proactive step" on the matter and that it was reviewing national security risks surrounding user data, which is the issue at hand between the U.S. government and the Chinese app.
The BBC reported TikTok has 800 million users worldwide, with 100 million in the U.S. alone. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern in the past over the potential risk that the Chinese government could gain access to the vast amount of user data that passes through the app. (Some TikTok defenders said it was unfairly singled out for concern versus Facebook and other internet giants.)
While Trump, 74, targeted TikTok outright — in what observers saw as an example of his antipathy toward China — Biden, 78, appears to be taking a more rounded approach.
Psaki, 42, said the administration was undergoing a "a broad review that's expanded beyond TikTok."
Separately, National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne told the Journal that the security agency plans "to develop a comprehensive approach to securing U.S. data that addresses the full range of threats we face."
"This includes the risk posed by Chinese apps and other software that operate in the U.S.," Horne said. "In the coming months, we expect to review specific cases in light of a comprehensive understanding of the risks we face."
With the security agency's review expected to take months, Psaki told reporters not to hold their breath on Biden's plans on how to handle TikTok.
"If we have news to announce, we will announce it," she said.
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