TikTok Files Lawsuit Against US Government Over Potential App Ban

TikTok, the popular video-sharing platform, has filed a lawsuit against the US government over a recently passed law that seeks to force its Chinese owner, ByteDance, to sell the app within nine months or face a ban in America.

The bill, called the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, was signed by President Joe Biden on April 24th. It gives ByteDance until January 19th of next year to sell TikTok to another company or face a ban in the US. The measure was passed overwhelmingly in Congress last month, with concerns among US politicians that China could access data on American people or spy on them using the app.

However, TikTok denies these claims and argues that the law violates the US constitution, including the first amendment which protects free speech. In a statement, the company said, “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 one billion people worldwide.”

The lawsuit, filed by TikTok and ByteDance in Washington on Tuesday at the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, argues that the act is an “unprecedented violation” of the first amendment. It also states, “There is no question: the act (law) will force a shutdown of TikTok by 19 January 2025, silencing the 170 million Americans who use the platform to communicate in ways that cannot be replicated elsewhere.”

ByteDance has stated that it has no plans to sell TikTok and would need approval from Beijing if it wanted to do so. China has previously opposed a forced sale of the platform and has signaled its opposition again this time.

TikTok is also challenging the government’s reasoning for the forced sale, stating that invoking national security concerns is not a sufficient reason for restricting free speech. The lawsuit argues that the burden is on the federal government to prove that this restriction is warranted, and it has not met that burden.

The lawsuit also raises concerns that if the act remains in place, it could set a precedent for the federal government to force the publishers of other platforms, including news sites, to sell or be shut down, citing national security grounds. Opponents of the law argue that Chinese authorities could easily access information on Americans through other means, such as commercial data brokers.

The US Justice Department declined to comment on the lawsuit on Tuesday. TikTok’s case will now be heard by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

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