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TikTok sues the US government over law that could ban the app

TikTok is suing the United States government in an effort to block a law that would ban TikTok if its parent company, ByteDance, fails to sell it within a year. The lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday, argues that the bill violates the U.S. Constitution. TikTok argues that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s commitment to “both free speech and individual liberty.”
“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 1 billion people worldwide,” the lawsuit reads. “That law — the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act (the “Act”) — is unconstitutional.”
The lawsuit comes two weeks after President Biden signed the bill, which included aid for Ukraine and Israel. The bill gives ByteDance until January 19 to sell the app or face a ban, bringing the possibility of a TikTok ban closer to reality than ever before.
TikTok argues that the U.S. government has not offered evidence to support its claims that the app poses risks to national security.
“The statements of congressional committees and individual Members of Congress during the hasty, closed-door legislative process preceding the Act’s enactment confirm that there is at most speculation, not ‘evidence,’ as the First Amendment requires,” the lawsuit reads.
TikTok goes on to say that the law is effectively seeking to ban the app, arguing that it is not possible to sell TikTok within the 270-day timeline it has been given.
“Petitioners have repeatedly explained this to the U.S. government, and sponsors of the Act were aware that divestment is not possible,” the lawsuit states. “There is no question: the Act will force a shutdown of TikTok by January 19, 2025, silencing the 170 million Americans who use the platform to communicate in ways that cannot be replicated elsewhere.”
Even if ByteDance wanted to sell the app, the Chinese government would likely block a sale because it would need to approve the transfer of the TikTok’s algorithms. TikTok goes on to state that a sale would be technologically impossible, as “millions of lines of software code” would need to be moved to a new owner.
The lawsuit follows fours years of allegations from the U.S. government that TikTok’s ties to China pose a national security risk and that it exposes Americans’ sensitive information to the Chinese government. TikTok has denied these allegations and said it has spent $2 billion to protect the data of U.S. users.
Lawmakers have also argued that TikTok has the potential to sway public opinion by deciding what it shows to users in its ‘For You’ feed.
When the U.S. government was seeking to ban TikTok under the Trump administration, TikTok considered selling its U.S. operations to an American company. Potential candidates included Oracle, Microsoft and Walmart, but none of these deals came to fruition. This time around, reports have indicated that ByteDance would prefer to shut down TikTok rather than sell it.

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