TikTok Sues Trump Administration Over Looming US Ban

A man wearing a shirt promoting Tiktok is seen at an Apple store in Beijing on Friday, July 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

(CN) — Social video app TikTok sued the Trump administration in federal court Monday over an executive order banning the app in the United States, a move the Chinese-owned company says was done for “political reasons” and not for the stated purpose of protecting national security. 

President Donald Trump claimed he signed the Aug. 6 order banning individuals and companies from using TikTok out of concern for national security and the data privacy of the app’s more than 100 million U.S.-based users.

U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern that the Chinese government could force TikTok’s owners to turn over Americans’ personal data collected through the app.

China has called the lawmakers’ comments “groundless” and part of a smear campaign.

Trump issued the order using powers vested in him through the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which gives presidents the authority to limit certain commercial activities in order to protect national interests.

ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, says in its 36-page lawsuit the executive order violates its due process rights and represents an overreach of Trump’s authority under IEEPA.

“Through this executive order, however, President Trump seeks to use IEEPA against TikTok Inc., a U.S. company — headquartered in Los Angeles with hundreds of employees across the United States — to destroy an online community where millions of Americans have come together to express themselves, share video content, and make connections with each other,” the lawsuit says. “The order imposes these restrictions despite express limitations in IEEPA barring executive actions from restricting personal communications or the transmission of informational materials.”

TikTok says it has taken steps to protect users’ private information, including by storing app data in servers outside of China and by separating app operations from other ByteDance products.

The lawsuit, filed in the Central District of California, seeks a court order permanently enjoining the Trump administration from the executive order.

A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

The Culver City, California-based company said in a statement Monday that Trump’s ban threatens thousands of planned jobs in the U.S. and that it is suing to protect the rights of its employees and app users. 

“Put simply, we have a thriving community and we are grateful — and responsible — to them,” the statement said. ‘We strongly disagree with the administration’s position that TikTok is a national security threat and we have articulated these objections previously.”

The app — which is estimated to have at least 2 billion downloads worldwide — provides a platform to produce, publish and share minute-long videos that can be synced to music.

The order banning TikTok is another escalation in the Trump administration’s campaign to paint China as a “threat to democracy” actively working to destabilize the U.S. and other countries, including through the use of apps that act as espionage tools.

Trump’s executive order on TikTok — along with a separate order issued the same day targeting the Chinese messaging and social media app WeChat — is set to take effect in September. 

Nonprofit group WeChat Users Alliance sued the Trump administration in federal court Sunday, claiming the ban violates its constitutional rights and erodes a critical communication bridge between China and the U.S.

WeChat — which boasts 1 billion users worldwide — and its Chinese parent company Tencent Holdings are not parties to the nonprofit’s lawsuit.

Following reports of Trump’s proposed TikTok ban, U.S. tech giant Microsoft announced it was in the process of purchasing the app from ByteDance, a move it hopes to complete by Sept. 15, according to a company statement.

The Washington state-based tech giant promised to ensure users’ data security once it takes over app operations, the statement said.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment.

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