Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's deadline for a TikTok deal is one week from today, as certainty continues to drain from the voices of sources close to the process. The big question now is what happens if no deal is struck.

Between the lines: One possibility is that Trump won't follow through on his threat. This could mean dropping the entire thing altogether, or perhaps saying the parties are close to an agreement but just need a bit more time. Maybe an extra 50 days or so, just to get Trump past Nov. 3.

  • This might depend on who gets into Trump's ear last. For example, former Trump campaign adviser David Urban has been working the White House on TikTok's behalf. Maybe he can sneak by Peter Navarro at 11:59 pm.

The more likely possibility is that Trump follows through, believing the (still questionable) national security rationale and that anti-China tech is a winning political message.

  • It's still unlikely TikTok would go offline next Wednesday, particularly given that it's already fighting Trump's executive order in court. Instead, expect this to become a protracted legal battle, reminiscent of the recording industry vs. Napster.
  • From an executive perspective, the White House would initially use the FTC, although could also leverage Treasury to pressure financial institutions doing business with TikTok. It also may ask Apple and Google to remove TikTok from app stores, although it unlikely to request any sort of forced removal from devices.
  • TikTok did immediately shut down India operations after a government ban, but the U.S.-China conflict is much different than the India-China conflict, which has included recent military skirmishes at the border. As one source explained it to me: To publicly support TikTok in India was to be viewed as unpatriotic, among both politicians and users.

The bottom line: If this doesn't soon get decided in a boardroom, it's going to get decided in a courtroom.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
23 hours ago - World

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Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump used a virtual address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday to defend his response to the coronavirus and call on other countries to “hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China.”

Setting the scene: Trump ticked through four years of major decisions and accomplishments in what could be his last address to the UN. But first, he launched into a fierce attack on China as Beijing’s representative looked on in the assembly hall.

TikTok's content-moderation time bomb

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When the dust finally clears from the fight over TikTok, whoever winds up running the burgeoning short-video-sharing service is likely to face a world of trouble trying to manage speech on it.

Why it matters: Facebook’s story already shows us how much can go wrong when online platforms beloved by passionate young users turn into public squares.

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Major climate news arrived on Tuesday when Chinese President Xi Jinping said China would aim for "carbon neutrality" by 2060 and a CO2 emissions peak before 2030.

Why it matters: China is by far the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter. So its success or failure at reining in planet-warming gases affects everyone's future.

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