TikTok sues federal government over potential US ban

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(WASHINGTON) — TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance filed a lawsuit against the federal government Tuesday over what it called an “unconstitutional” potential ban of the social media platform in the United States.

In the lawsuit, TikTok and ByteDance claim the law signed by President Joe Biden last month — which would force the company to sell the platform to a non-Chinese company in nine to 12 months or face a ban in the U.S. — violates users’ First Amendment rights.

“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 company said in its 65-page petition filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Biden signed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, which was part of a massive, $95 billion foreign aid package passed by Congress, on April 24.

The White House did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

The president and some congressional leaders have argued that the ultimatum against TikTok was necessary because of security concerns about ByteDance and its connections to the Chinese government.

ByteDance refuted those allegations in its lawsuit, arguing there has been no tangible evidence that the app poses any security risk.

“Congress itself has offered nothing to suggest that the TikTok platform poses the types of risks to data security or the spread of foreign propaganda that could conceivably justify the act,” it said in the lawsuit.

In previous statements, as the bill made its way through Congress, TikTok slammed the renewed efforts behind divestment, saying at the time: “It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy, annually.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the window to sell the company is not possible “commercially, technologically or legally.”

ByteDance is seeking for the court to make a judgment that the act violates the Constitution and enjoin Attorney General Merrick Garland from enforcing it, according to court documents.

Some social media influencers, business owners and other TikTok supporters criticized a ban on the app in the U.S., claiming they would lose a major platform for their businesses.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Tuesday, however, showed that the majority of Americans are in favor of the ban.

About 53% of Americans support a ban on TikTok if it’s not sold to a non-Chinese company, while 44% are opposed to the ban, according to the poll.

Roughly 51% of Americans say the U.S. government should try to force a sale of TikTok while 46% say it should not, the poll found.

ByteDance filed a lawsuit against Montana in May 2023 when it issued a similar ban, arguing it violated First Amendment rights. In November, a federal judge ruled in favor of TikTok and blocked the law before it took effect.

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