In a bid to avoid a U.S. ban, TikTok is embarking on a project to restructure its product and operations in the country. It plans to store local citizen data on local servers, create a domestic entity to house that data, comply with local legal and law enforcement requests for data, limit the flow of data across national borders—and spend billions of dollars to make all of this possible. In short, it plans to bring to life the model of internet governance the tech industry and the U.S. government have spent the past 20 years vehemently resisting.
The irony, of course, is that this outcome is the result of sustained pressure by U.S. lawmakers. Politicians have battered TikTok in the press and in congressional hearings, calling it a threat to U.S. national security because ByteDance, its parent company, is headquartered in China. Critics have alleged that TikTok could provide U.S. user data to the Chinese government or manipulate its algorithm to promote Chinese propaganda.