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US flails against TikTok injunction with new CFIUS deadline change

US flails against TikTok injunction with new CFIUS deadline change


A court injunction still bars the government from banning the app

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The US government has given video sharing platform TikTok another reprieve, but it’s not totally clear how the latest deadline extension will be enforced or what the penalties would be.

On Friday, the Trump administration’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) issued a notice giving TikTok a new deadline to either sell or spin off its US business: November 27th (which happens to be the day after Thanksgiving in the US). But it’s not clear what legal authority CFIUS would have to take action once that day arrives, since the council is still bound by an injunction issued by a federal court in Pennsylvania on October 30th.

It’s the latest twist in an extremely confusing case that started over the summer. President Trump said in August that TikTok and its parent company, China-based ByteDance, presented a national security risk to the US, and issued an order requiring TikTok to sell its US business. Trump’s order would have blocked all US transactions with ByteDance, and required ByteDance to destroy any TikTok data from US users.

The administration also said TikTok had to report to CFIUS once all the data had been destroyed, and required ByteDance to destroy any data collected from TikTok precursor app, which the company bought in 2017.

On September 18th, the US Commerce Department issued an order to block downloads of the app in the US. But a day later, the president said he had approved “in concept” a bid from Oracle to become TikTok’s “trusted tech partner.” That deal called for creating a new entity, TikTok Global, which would be based in the US and take over processing and storage for all US-based TikTok users.

That deal has been in limbo, however, and TikTok said earlier this week it had received “no substantive feedback” from the Trump administration for some time. The company filed a petition seeking a 30-day extension of the original November 12th CFIUS deadline.

On Thursday, the Commerce Department issued an unpublished rule saying the agency is complying with the terms of that judge’s ruling. Its prohibition of TikTok transactions “has been enjoined and will not go into effect, pending further legal developments.”

Since the government is enjoined from taking action against TikTok, it’s not clear why an extension from CFIUS was necessary at this stage. But it seems more and more likely that the future of the app won’t be decided by the current administration; at the very least, it appears the Trump administration’s interest in the matter has waned as it focuses on other issues.

TikTok did not immediately reply to a request for comment Friday.