TikTok Is Ticked Off — and Suing to Halt U.S. Ban

TikTok, which is facing a potential ban in the U.S. if its parent company, China’s ByteDance, does not sell the platform, has decided that its best defense is offense: On Tuesday, the app developer filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in the hopes of stopping the law in its tracks.

The legislation at the heart of the matter — the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, which frames the app’s Chinese ownership as a national security concern — was nestled into a foreign aid package that Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed last month.

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In its new lawsuit, TikTok criticizes the characterization, calling it an “unprecedented violation” of the First Amendment, which protects free speech.

The move comes on the heels of an event held by the developer in New York City on Thursday, where Blake Chandlee, president of global business solutions for TikTok, addressed more than 300 guests representing fashion, beauty and other brands and advertisers. The crowd was reportedly eager to hear the developer’s response to the news. Chandlee cast the law as unconstitutional and indicated that the business would launch a court challenge.

He explained that “the facts and the law are clearly on our side,” and vowed to take action. “I want you to know we are not backing down.”

The comments match the lawsuit in its terms and tone. According to the filing, “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.”

The legislation indeed marks the first time the U.S. government took concrete steps that could exile a privately owned platform in its entirety.

From TikTok’s point of view, the label of “national security concern” is an inadequate excuse for hampering free speech, and it’s one that has yet to be proved. In fact, the lawsuit argues that there is no evidence of any action that would “conceivably justify” this position, whether on security or propaganda grounds.

It also points out that the mandate forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok isn’t feasible, whether commercially, technologically or legally, within the 270 days dictated. “According to its sponsors, the Act is not a ban because it offers ByteDance a choice: divest TikTok’s U.S. business or be shut down,” the filing said. “But in reality, there is no choice.”

TikTok is not the only group taking issue with the law.

Progressive action group MoveOn launched a petition on Tuesday calling on Congress and the Biden administration not to ban TikTok, and as many as 32,000 signees consider the move a political stunt, it said.

“If lawmakers want to address real concerns their constituents have about Big Tech companies and data security, they need to pass legislation to strengthen privacy and antitrust regulations and enact protections for data security,” said Jensine Gomez, MoveOn’s campaign director, in a press statement.

“TikTok shouldn’t get singled out when privacy, data tracking and data harvesting are growing problems that Congress has failed to hold all social media platforms accountable for. And just banning TikTok won’t fix it.”

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