ByteDance, TikTok sue to block US seeking sale or ban

TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance have sued in US federal court seeking to block a law signed by President Joe Biden that would force the divestiture of the short video app used by 170 million Americans or ban it.

The companies on Tuesday filed their lawsuit in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, arguing that the law violates the US Constitution on a number of grounds including running afoul of First Amendment free speech protections.

The law, signed by Biden on April 24, gives ByteDance until January 19 to sell TikTok or face a ban.

"For the first time in history, Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single, named speech platform to a permanent, nationwide ban," the companies said in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said the divestiture "is simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally."

The White House has said it wants to see Chinese-based ownership ended on national security grounds but not a ban on TikTok. The White House and Justice Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is the latest move by TikTok to keep ahead of efforts to shut it down in the US as companies such as Snap and Meta look to capitalise on TikTok's political uncertainty to take away advertising dollars from their rival.

Driven by worries among US lawmakers that China could access data on Americans or spy on them with the app, the measure was passed overwhelmingly in Congress just weeks after being introduced.

TikTok has denied that it has or ever would share US user data, accusing American lawmakers in the lawsuit of advancing "speculative" concerns.

Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, top Democrat on a House committee on China, said the legislation is "the only way to address the national security threat posed by ByteDance's ownership of apps like TikTok."

"Instead of continuing its deceptive tactics, it's time for ByteDance to start the divestment process," he said.

The law prohibits app stores like Apple and Alphabet's Google from offering TikTok and bars internet hosting services from supporting TikTok unless ByteDance divests TikTok by January 19.

The suit said the Chinese government "has made clear that it would not permit a divestment of the recommendation engine that is a key to the success of TikTok in the United States."

The companies asked the DC Circuit to block US Attorney General Merrick Garland from enforcing the law and says "prospective injunctive relief" is warranted.

According to the suit, 58 per cent of ByteDance is owned by global institutional investors including BlackRock, General Atlantic and Susquehanna International Group, 21 per cent owned by the company's Chinese founder and 21 per cent owned by employees - including about 7000 Americans.