TikTok has rapidly become one of the most popular apps for teenagers across the world for dancing, lip-syncing and sharing details about their lives. But if you cast your mind back to last year—specifically, August 2020—you may recall that the app’s future in the United States suddenly fell into doubt. The Trump administration began arguing that the app’s ownership by the Chinese company ByteDance raised problems of national security for the United States. ByteDance was ordered to divest from TikTok, and the app, along with the popular China-based chat app WeChat, faced U.S. sanctions.
But you might have noticed that your teenager is still making TikTok videos. And President Biden issued his own executive order last week revoking Trump’s sanctions. So, what on earth is happening?
On this week’s episode of our Arbiters of Truth series on our online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke to Bobby Chesney, Lawfare co-founder and Charles I. Francis Professor in Law at the University of Texas School of Law, about what’s happened to TikTok over the past year. Bobby brought us up to speed with the Trump administration’s offensive on TikTok, why the app has survived so far and why TikTok shouldn’t breathe easy just yet about Biden’s executive order.