Despite its popularity, TikTok continues to attract the gaze of U.S. lawmakers who fear the app could be a conduit for Chinese espionage. The Trump administration has issued a pair of executive orders aimed at banning ByteDance and forcing a TikTok divestiture in the U.S. And while it seems an acquisition of TikTok’s U.S. operations is likely, ByteDance is preparing to answer in kind with legal action of its own.
Update (Aug 24): TikTok has confirmed they are filing a complaint in federal court challenging Trump’s efforts to ban the social platform in the US.
Rumors have been swirling for weeks about a potential legal backlash from TikTok over its ban in the United States. Between Friday and Saturday, multiple reports surfaced suggesting that a lawsuit is all but certain, and that legal filings could be finalized as early as next week. The Verge seems to have removed any speculation from the matter, as they were able to obtain a statement from TikTok spokesman Josh Gartner.
“Even though we strongly disagree with the administration’s concerns, for nearly a year we have sought to engage in good faith to provide a constructive solution. What we encountered instead was a lack of due process as the administration paid no attention to facts and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses. To ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and users are treated fairly, we have no choice but to challenge the Executive Order through the judicial system,” Gartner told The Verge.
“To ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and users are treated fairly, we have no choice but to challenge the Executive Order through the judicial system”
The legal action would primarily challenge the first executive order President Trump handed down in early August. It stated that within 45 days, all transactions with ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) would be banned. Then, Trump levied another executive order, giving ByteDance 90 days to divest its U.S. TikTok operations.
It seems ByteDance’s legal defense would center on proving it was denied due process, as Trump’s first executive order invokes the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Furthermore, ByteDance also plans to contest its classification as a national security threat in the United States.
TikTok remains mired in controversy as US-China tensions continue to escalate. ByteDance’s lawsuit seems to come at a time when more and more companies and investors are interested in acquiring the U.S. portion of TikTok. Most recently, both Oracle and Twitter have thrown their hats in the ring. Meanwhile, Microsoft is still in talks to buy TikTok, and is looking to close a deal by September.