What a bunch of Keystone cops. That’s the only way to think about the national security folks behind the latest U.S. threat to ban TikTok. As The Information reported just now, following an earlier report from The Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration is demanding that Chinese tech giant ByteDance sell TikTok—or else face a ban. That’s exactly what Donald Trump threatened to do in the summer of 2020 for the same reason—national security. It’s astounding that over the course of three years and two presidential administrations, U.S. officials have circled back to exactly the same point.
What has the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the federal government task force that has been reviewing TikTok, been doing all this time? It began the probe back in 2019! Since then, TikTok has become firmly entrenched in the U.S. Last October, according to data from app tracker Data.ai, the app had around 110 million monthly active adult users in the U.S., we reported in December. Facebook, in comparison, had about 266 million MAUs in North America. TikTok is so enmeshed in popular culture that everyone from Meta Platforms to Google’s YouTube has launched a TikTok-like feature. Even Spotify recently announced a TikTok-style feed. All this is to say it would have been a lot easier to ban TikTok three years ago than it will be now.