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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok could be banned in the U.S. after this Thursday, although it remains unclear whether the Trump administration will follow through or if a judge will intervene.

Why it matters: The short-video entertainment and social networking app is estimated to have around 100 million U.S. users and more than 1,500 U.S. employees.

No, you're not experiencing déjà vu.

President Trump originally ordered a ban on new downloads of TikTok to take effect on Sept. 30, with the service to be shuttered on Nov. 12 unless it was purchased by a U.S. entity.

  • A federal judge granted an injunction against the download ban just hours before it was set to take effect, and a different federal judge later granted an injunction against the Nov. 12 shutdown.

But, but, but: The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) also set a Nov. 12 deadline for when ByteDance, TikTok's Chinese parent company, must unwind a 2018 acquisition that effectively created TikTok.

  • CFIUS has the ability to extend the deadline by 30 days, but has not yet done so.
  • CFIUS and ByteDance continue to negotiate over an arrangement whereby a group of U.S. entities — including venture capital firms, Oracle and Walmart — would hold a majority stake in TikTok, but no final deal has been struck.

If an extension is not granted and no deal is agreed upon, the Justice Department "is authorized to take any steps necessary" to enforce the CFIUS order. It remains unclear if ByteDance would risk legal action by keeping TikTok operational, or how fast a court might act in response to a DOJ request.

  • A Treasury Department spokesperson declined to comment on what DOJ would do if Thursday's deadline passes.

What's new: TikTok on Tuesday asked a federal judge to intervene. In a statement, the company said:

"For a year, TikTok has actively engaged with CFIUS in good faith to address its national security concerns, even as we disagree with its assessment. In the nearly two months since the President gave his preliminary approval to our proposal to satisfy those concerns, we have offered detailed solutions to finalize that agreement – but have received no substantive feedback on our extensive data privacy and security framework.

Our thought bubble: Just because TikTok is two-for-two so far in requesting injunctions does not necessarily mean it will succeed again. Those earlier cases related to Trump's executive orders, which were sloppily written — overcoming CFIUS, which is designed to protect national security, is a higher legal bar.

The bottom line: Even if President-elect Biden's administration plans to reverse Trump's executive order and the existing CFIUS ruling, those moves would not come before the current deadlines.

Go deeper

Nov 23, 2020 - Technology

Biden's openings for tech progress

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images 

Item No. 1 on President-elect Joe Biden's day-one tech agenda, controlling the flood of misinformation online, offers no fast fixes — but other tech issues facing the new administration hold out opportunities for quick action and concrete progress.

What to watch: Closing the digital divide will be a high priority, as the pandemic has exposed how many Americans still lack reliable in-home internet connections and the devices needed to work and learn remotely.

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.

The big picture: Biden also stated he has asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to stay on in his current role, serve as a chief medical adviser and be part of his COVID-19 response team when he takes office early next year.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.