“TikTok Claims US Ban Unavoidable Unless Law Is Blocked by Court Order”

FILE PHOTO: U.S. flag is placed on a TikTok logo in this illustration taken March 20, 2024. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

On Thursday, TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance requested a U.S. court to invalidate a law they claim will lead to the ban of the popular video-sharing app in the United States by January 19. They argue that the U.S. government has not participated in meaningful settlement discussions since 2022.

The legislation, signed by President Joe Biden in April, mandates ByteDance to divest TikTok’s U.S. operations by the specified date or face a ban affecting the app’s 170 million American users. ByteDance contends that divesting TikTok is not feasible technically, commercially, or legally.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is set to hear oral arguments on September 16 regarding the lawsuits filed by TikTok, ByteDance, and several TikTok users. The future of TikTok in the U.S. may hinge on this case, which will also test the U.S. government’s newly acquired powers to regulate foreign-owned applications.

ByteDance and TikTok argue that the law represents a significant shift from America’s tradition of supporting an open internet, suggesting it sets a precedent that allows political bodies to target and potentially shut down platforms they find unfavorable.

The legislation was quickly passed by Congress due to concerns that China could potentially access or misuse data collected from American users via the app.

A group of TikTok users also filed a lawsuit claiming the ban infringes on their free speech rights. They argue that the absence of immediate national security threats is evident since the law permits TikTok to operate until the end of the year, a critical period including an election.

TikTok maintains that any divestiture or separation would be a prolonged process, contradicting the essence of free speech rights in America. It also highlights the law’s selective targeting of TikTok, overlooking other apps with substantial operations in China that gather extensive U.S. user data.

ByteDance disclosed that after lengthy discussions, negotiations with the U.S. government ceased unexpectedly in August 2022. The company has publicly shared a redacted version of a draft national security agreement that aimed to safeguard U.S. TikTok user data, revealing an investment of over $2 billion in these efforts.

The proposed agreement allowed the U.S. government a “kill switch” to deactivate TikTok if it failed to comply, and demanded the relocation of TikTok’s source code out of China.

In response to a cease in negotiations, TikTok’s legal team expressed in a communication to the Justice Department that the administration seemed to prefer shutting down TikTok rather than pursuing a feasible solution through an enforceable agreement to protect U.S. users.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the communication but affirmed last month that the legislation addresses national security concerns in a manner consistent with constitutional rights, including the First Amendment, and plans to defend the law in court.

Historically, similar attempts by former President Donald Trump to ban TikTok and WeChat were blocked by the courts. Despite ongoing concerns over national security, the White House prefers ending Chinese-based ownership of TikTok rather than an outright ban. Interestingly, Trump has joined TikTok earlier this month, raising eyebrows about his stance on the potential ban.

The law restricts app stores like Apple and Google from offering TikTok and prevents internet hosting services from supporting the app unless ByteDance divests it.

Lucas Falcão

International Politics and Sports Specialist, Chief Editor of Walerts with extensive experience in breaking news.

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