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TikTok Fights Back: Sues US Government Over Threatened App Ban

ByHuey Yee Ong

May 9, 2024
TikTok Files Lawsuit Against U.S. Government

TikTok Fights Back: Sues US Government Over Threatened App Ban

TikTok has taken legal action against the U.S. government in response to a new law that mandates the sale of the app by its parent company, ByteDance, within a year or else face a ban.

The lawsuit, filed this Tuesday, challenges the constitutionality of the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. TikTok contends that the legislation infringes upon constitutional rights related to free speech and individual liberty, arguing that it unfairly targets a single platform.

The lawsuit emphasizes the unique impact of the law, stating, “For the first time in history, Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single, named speech platform to a permanent, nationwide ban, and bars every American from participating in a unique online community with more than 1 billion people worldwide.” This assertion highlights TikTok’s perspective that the legislation is discriminatory and violates principles of fairness and freedom of expression.

Adding complexity to the situation, the lawsuit was filed following the signing of the bill by President Biden two weeks prior, which also included international aid components for Ukraine and Israel. The imminent deadline set by the law—January 19, 2025—compels ByteDance to either sell TikTok or cease its operations in the U.S., thereby bringing the prospect of a ban into near-term possibility.

Evidence and Legal Arguments

TikTok’s legal filings argue that the U.S. government has not substantiated its claims that the app poses national security risks. The company points to a lack of concrete evidence and describes the legislative process as “hasty” and “closed-door,” suggesting that the government’s actions are based more on speculation than on solid evidence as required by the First Amendment.

Further complicating the potential sale is the practical impossibility outlined by TikTok, which includes:

  • Timeline Feasibility: TikTok asserts that divesting the app within the 270-day timeline is not feasible.
  • Government Approval Requirements: The need for approval from the Chinese government to transfer TikTok’s algorithms makes a sale even more unlikely.
  • Technical Complexities: The sale would involve relocating millions of lines of software code to a new owner, posing significant technological challenges.

The legal challenge also references past efforts to sell TikTok during the Trump administration when potential deals with American companies like Oracle, Microsoft, and Walmart were considered but never finalized. Currently, reports suggest that ByteDance would rather shut down TikTok in the U.S. than comply with the forced sale.

This lawsuit is a continuation of the years-long controversy surrounding TikTok’s ties to China, with the U.S. government consistently expressing concerns that the app could expose American users’ sensitive information to Chinese authorities and manipulate public opinion through its algorithms. Despite these allegations, TikTok has denied any breach of user privacy and has invested $2 billion to enhance data protection for its U.S. users.

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Featured Image courtesy of DADO RUVIC/REUTERS

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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