WASHINGTON • The Biden administration signalled it would slow down an effort to force TikTok to unwind its US operations, asking a federal judge to pause a lawsuit over former president Donald Trump’s ban of the popular video app while the new White House reviews its predecessor’s policies.
The White House said TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, is part of a wide-ranging examination of the government’s posture towards Beijing, including how to guard against risks to Americans’ online data.
Those risks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, will be addressed “in a decisive and effective fashion”, though no action is imminent.
“It is a broad review that has expanded beyond TikTok,” Ms Psaki told reporters in a briefing at the White House.
The developments show that the forced sale of TikTok is far down President Joe Biden’s list of priorities, even as the company remains in discussion with regulators.
Mr Biden has dedicated much of his time to domestic issues, including passing another round of virus relief measures and a separate package to boost the pandemic-battered United States economy.
The administration is in the process of determining which China matters need to be addressed immediately, according to people familiar with the matter.
The TikTok sale also does not appear to be a priority for the group of US companies involved in the Trump-era deal to pur-chase ByteDance’s American operations, which include Oracle and Walmart.
The issue did not come up during a meeting that lasted more than 11/2 hours in the Oval Office on Tuesday between Mr Biden, Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon and other business leaders, according to people familiar with the conversation.
Talks between ByteDance and the US government, however, have continued behind the scenes.
ByteDance representatives are speaking with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US over security guarantees surrounding the company’s data, concerns about its source code and other matters related to TikTok’s operations in the US, according to the people familiar with the matter.
A ByteDance spokesman declined to comment.
The effort is aimed at ensuring TikTok will never have to weather the scenario last autumn when Mr Trump sought to ban the app.
His action was widely seen as being politically motivated and linked to his hard-line approach towards China.
Citing US national security concerns, the Trump administration ordered in August that the popular video-sharing app be sold to an American firm or face a ban in the US.