TikTok sues US government over law mandating ban or divestment

TikTok contends that Congress has singled out and banned the platform without evidence of Chinese government misuse. The app claims a ban would be impractical and isolate US users, undermining its business.

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TikTok has filed a lawsuit against the US government, challenging a new law that requires the app to sever ties with its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, or face a ban in the US. The company argues that the law is unconstitutional and deems it impossible to sell the app from ByteDance, stating that it would instead result in a shutdown by 19 January 2025.

Namely, the law, signed by President Joe Biden last month, grants ByteDance nine months to divest TikTok or cease its operations in the US, citing national security concerns. However, TikTok’s complaint argues that the government has not presented sufficient evidence of the Chinese government misusing the app. Concerns expressed by individual members of Congress and a congressional committee report are speculative about the potential misuse of TikTok in the future without citing specific instances of misconduct. However, TikTok asserts that it has operated prominently in the US since its launch in 2017.

The app contends that a ban in the US would be unfeasible due to the complex task of transferring millions of lines of software code from ByteDance to a new owner. Additionally, restrictions imposed by the Chinese government would prevent the sale of TikTok along with its algorithm. TikTok argues that such a ban would effectively isolate American users and undermine its business, mentioning also its previous efforts to address US government concerns.

During the Trump administration, discussions were held regarding partnerships with American companies such as Walmart, Microsoft, and Oracle to separate TikTok’s US operations. However, these potential deals have yet to materialise. TikTok also attempted to appease the government by storing US user data in Oracle’s servers, although a recent report suggests that this action was primarily cosmetic.

TikTok seeks a court judgement to declare the Biden administration’s legislation unconstitutional in response to the new law. The company also requests an order to prevent the attorney general from enforcing the law.