TikTok, DOJ push for fast-track review of ByteDance divestiture law

The US Justice Department and TikTok argue that the public has a significant interest in resolving this matter quickly due to the large number of TikTok users.

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The US Justice Department (DOJ) and TikTok requested a US appeals court to expedite the review of legal challenges against a new law requiring ByteDance to divest TikTok’s US assets by 19 January or face a ban. They seek a ruling by 6 December to allow for a potential Supreme Court review. With the legal move, TikTok expects to avoid emergency preliminary injunctive relief.

In the past two weeks, TikTok, ByteDance, and TikTok content creators filed lawsuits to block the law, arguing it infringes on First Amendment rights and the US Constitution. 

Driven by fears of Chinese data access and spying, Congress rapidly passed the legislation, which President Joe Biden signed on 24 April. The law requires ByteDance to sell TikTok by 19 January due to national security concerns, potentially affecting 170 million American users. The Justice Department may submit classified information to support these concerns.

Although it does not intend to ban the app entirely, the law also prevents app stores and internet hosting services from offering or supporting TikTok unless ByteDance complies.

Why does it matter?

The long-standing threat of a potential TikTok ban in the United States, first raised when former President Donald Trump attempted to shut down the app via executive order, seems to have reached a critical point. Constitutional law scholars argue that forcing TikTok to cease its American operations over unspecified national security concerns would violate the First Amendment and that US officials must prove in court that banning TikTok is the least restrictive way to address the threat. While Trump’s executive order was blocked by federal judges due to a lack of evidence that the app posed a security risk, it remains to be seen if the DOJ will be able to present concrete evidence this time.