Well, Well, Well, the U.S. Commerce Department Actually Does Remember That the TikTok Ban Was Supposed to Happen Today

Well, Well, Well, the U.S. Commerce Department Actually Does Remember That the TikTok Ban Was Supposed to Happen Today
Illustration: Lionel Bonaventure, Getty Images

A resounding silence echoed throughout the tech blogs today, the date of the long-hyped TikTok ban. It seemed to indicate that the government had hoped that the hypothetical event had already fizzled out in the recesses of public memory like so many flash-bang Trump pronouncements. But no: the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it will not enforce the TikTok ban that has sucked up months of international time and attention during a global pandemic. At least not today.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Commerce Department has said that the ban, which would have wiped TikTok from U.S. app stores, won’t go into effect “pending further legal developments.” It pointed to a Philadelphia federal judge’s injunction delaying the Commerce Department’s rule to implement Donald Trump’s executive order, which dictated that TikTok parent company ByteDance divest all of its U.S. assets by a since-frequently-stalled deadline.

Today, attorneys for the Department of Justice filed an appeal on behalf of Donald Trump.

In other words, the Commerce Department will not not follow the rules.

Confused? Welcome to the TikTok saga.

The injunction, issued in October, was part of a lawsuit brought by three TikTokers. U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone wrote in her opinion that “the Government’s own descriptions of the national security threat posed by the TikTok app are phrased in the hypothetical.” In September, a federal judge had granted TikTok a separate injunction on part of the ban, and this week TikTok filed a request for another.

This is news because TikTok itself has been wondering whether the government planned to adhere to the injunction or enforce the ban today, the last of a handful of deadlines set by Trump.

“For a year, TikTok has actively engaged with CFIUS in good faith to address its national security concerns, even as we disagree with its assessment,” TikTok tweeted on Tuesday. “In the nearly two months since the President gave his preliminary approval to our proposal to satisfy those concerns, we have offered detailed solutions to finalise that agreement – but have received no substantive feedback on our extensive data privacy and security framework.”

In other words, the Justice Department seems to have either forgotten or procrastinated until the very last minute. All this after the Committee on Foreign Investment launched a national security investigation into TikTok, Mike Pompeo designed a national cybersecurity plan specifically targeting TikTok, the president utilised national emergency powers, financial pundits dropped everything they were doing for months, the Commerce Department forced its own ban, the Commerce Department said that it would “vigorously defend the E.O…from legal challenges,” and the Department of Justice called TikTok a “mouthpiece” for the Chinese government. The Department of Justice has other errands now.