Politico

TikTok suing Trump administration in attempt to stave off ban


TikTok is suing the Trump administration Monday for essentially banning its popular video-sharing app in the U.S., arguing that an executive order the president signed earlier this month was put together in haste without regard for the company’s rights.

In the lawsuit, TikTok contends that the administration has not proven the app poses a national security threat because of its parent company’s roots in China. It will also contend that President Donald Trump abused a law that grants him the authority to disrupt global business to address extraordinary threats.

What the lawsuit will say: TikTok will argue that the Trump administration has not demonstrated “an unusual and extraordinary threat” as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act requires, or provided evidence to support its national security fears, excerpts of the legal complaint show.

It also argues the executive order fails to reflect nearly a year of back-and-forth between the company and the administration over efforts TikTok has taken to distance itself from China. TikTok says it does not store U.S. data in China and that its senior executives are Americans based in the U.S.

The company also accuses the government of denying due process and instead rushing to a “heavily politicized” decision.

“Now is the time for us to act,” TikTok wrote in a blog post. “We do not take suing the government lightly, however we feel we have no choice but to take action to protect our rights, and the rights of our community and employees.”

TikTok claims harm to creators: More than 100 million Americans share and view short videos via the app, including creators who rely on TikTok for income. Trump’s ban is “irreparably harming” the digital community TikTok has built, the company says.

TikTok also asserts that the Trump administration is “eliminating the creation of 10,000 American jobs”— though those jobs have not been created yet. The firm employs 1,500 people in the U.S. to date, but has revealed plans to hire another 10,000 over the next three years. The hiring spree was first announced in July.

Get up to speed: Trump signed an executive order a little over two weeks ago accusing TikTok parent company ByteDance of posing a national security threat due to its alleged ties to the Chinese government. As a result, the company would not be allowed to conduct “transactions” in the U.S. after Sept. 20.

A subsequent executive order granted permission for ByteDance to sell TikTok to an American company as long as the deal resolves the administration’s security concerns.

The action reflects rising economic tensions between the U.S. and China, with Chinese tech companies serving as one of Trump’s prime targets. The administration also issued an executive order this month effectively banning the Chinese messaging app WeChat, and has previously sought to blunt the global expansion of Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE, among others, over national security concerns.

Merger talks still underway: ByteDance’s fight to keep its U.S. business alive comes as the company also entertains acquisition talks with U.S. suitors. Microsoft has confirmed it’s actively negotiating to purchase TikTok in the U.S. and at least several other countries, and those talks are slated to conclude by Sept. 15. Oracle is also exploring an acquisition, according to news reports.

What’s next: The lawsuit, if it gets traction, could open up more paths forward for ByteDance. For now, the company will have to cease transactions in less than a month and potentially sell its U.S. business to the highest bidder.

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