Ghosted by the government?

November 12, 2020, 2:19 PM UTC

TikTok once again finds itself in uncharted territory.

The ByteDance-owned company was awaiting a response from the Treasury Department’s Committee of Foreign Investment in the United States, which was reviewing TikTok’s proposed deal with Oracle and Walmart. The deal, which falls short of a sale, was TikTok’s response to President Donald Trump, who tried to shut down the company’s U.S. operations citing security concerns.

But on Tuesday, TikTok said it hadn’t received any guidance from CFIUS despite the committee setting a deadline that would require the company to either address the concerns or halt its U.S. operations by Nov. 12.

TikTok turned to a U.S. Court of Appeals for relief, asking for a review of CFIUS’s actions thus far. But some legal experts say that despite what the court decides, the government will likely to continue to meticulously review the issue and that it won’t magically vanish with the entrance of a new administration.

“All of those issues that bubbled up through CFIUS were national security implications,” said Chris Griner, chair of the national security and compliance group at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP. “So that’s the thing—it’s not going to go away.”

Aimen Mir, partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, formerly worked for CFIUS and twice saw what happens when administrations change. “There’s not a substantial difference,” he said. “There’s relative continuity in CFIUS.”

I spoke with Wall Street analysts who expect TikTok to emerge relatively unscathed once all is said and done. They expect the court to allow TikTok to continue its U.S. operations, possibly until President-elect Joe Biden takes over. Meanwhile, the Trump administration likely has put the issue on the back burner, they said. After all, Trump’s camp is currently preoccupied with challenging the results of the presidential election.

“Biden’s [administration] is going to be a lot softer when it comes to China,” said Dan Ives, analyst at investment banking firm Wedbush Securities. “That’s why TikTok is just going to continue to delay this.”

Mark Shmulik, analyst at brokerage firm AB Bernstein, agrees that TikTok may fare better with the Biden administration, and so it will keep arguing that it doesn’t need to be fully separated from ByteDance to address any security concerns. “They’ll do everything they can to keep it one company or retain ownership,” he said.

Whatever happens, most agree that TikTok’s saga with the U.S. government is one for the history books. And once Biden is sworn into office, the public nature of these dealings may be history as well.

Danielle Abril


In September, McDonald’s reported the best month it’s had in a decade; in this episode of Fortune’s Reinvent podcast, host Beth Kowitt speaks with CEO Chris Kempczinski about how McDonald’s finds itself in a surprisingly good spot in the pandemic, thanks to the premium customers are now placing on speed, efficiency, drive-thru, and delivery. Listen to the episode here.


Political ad bans persist. Facebook and Google have extended their bans on political ads as they attempt to curb election misinformation on their services. Facebook said its ban will continue for another month, Meanwhile Google said its ban could last through the end of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal. But that move has created an unintended consequence: Two Georgia Senate runoffs that will determine whether Republicans retain the majority are now unable to target potential voters and donors through ads.  

More food delivery. As the ride-hailing business continues to suffer in the U.S. amid the pandemic, Lyft is taking a note from rival Uber. The company recently said it is developing a food-delivery service to help cushion the losses it’s sustaining from its rides business. But unlike Uber, Lyft said its delivery service won’t be consumer-facing, but rather directed solely at bolstering capabilities for restaurants.

Limits on free photo storage. Google Photos plans to start charging users to store more than 15 gigabytes on its service beginning June 1, according to The Verge. Google also plans to implement the same storage cap on Google Workspace documents and spreadsheets. Documents and photos uploaded before June 1 will not count against the new cap.

Getting vocal. Snapchat is reportedly acquiring startup that builds voice assistants for customer support, according to TechCrunch. employs about 40 people, all of whom are expected to join Snapchat’s team, and has raised about $6 million in funding since it was founded in 2017. The deal is reportedly expected to be worth $70 million.


In a study released on Wednesday, researchers from universities across the nation explored whether recent statements made by President Donald Trump on social media to discredit the results of the 2020 election have changed democratic norms within the U.S. The group surveyed about 3,000 people, asking them how active they are on social media, their views on politics, and their reactions to 20 tweets from Trump.

“We find that no evidence that support for political violence or belief in democracy changes after repeated exposure to these statements. However, exposure to these norm violations has pernicious effects among Trump’s supporters. Among people who approve of his performance in office, repeated exposure to norm-violating rhetoric about electoral fraud erodes trust and confidence in elections and increases belief that elections are rigged.”


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Major, Joe Biden's two-year-old German shepherd, will be the first shelter dog to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Animal shelters across the nation hope Major will help put a spotlight on adopting dogs in need of good homes. 

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