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TikTok and ByteDance File Lawsuit Against US Law Mandating App Sale

 |  May 7, 2024

TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance have initiated a lawsuit against the U.S. federal government. The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, aims to block a law recently signed by President Joe Biden that mandates the divestiture of the popular short video app or threatens a ban on its use.

The contentious law, signed into effect on April 24, stipulates that ByteDance must sell TikTok by January 19 or face a nationwide ban. TikTok and ByteDance, in their lawsuit, argue that this law violates several provisions of the U.S. Constitution, notably encroaching upon First Amendment free speech protections.

“For the first time in history, Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single, named speech platform to a permanent, nationwide ban,” the companies stated in their lawsuit, as reported by Reuters.

The lawsuit contends that the mandated divestiture is impractical, asserting that it is not feasible commercially, technologically or legally. According to the lawsuit, this law would effectively force TikTok to shut down by January 19, 2025, consequently silencing the platform’s 170 million American users.

This legal maneuver is the latest in a series of efforts by TikTok to stave off potential shutdowns in the U.S. amid mounting political uncertainty. Competitors such as Snap and Meta are eagerly eyeing TikTok’s user base, hoping to capitalize on the platform’s turmoil to redirect advertising dollars.

Related: TikTok Updates Data Usage Regulations To Fit EU Laws

The genesis of the law lies in concerns among U.S. lawmakers regarding potential national security risks posed by TikTok’s Chinese ownership. There have been fears that the Chinese government could access or spy on American users’ data through the app, although TikTok vehemently denies such allegations.

The law prohibits app stores from offering TikTok and bars internet hosting services from supporting the app unless ByteDance divests its ownership by the specified deadline.

In their legal challenge, TikTok and ByteDance also raise concerns about the Chinese government’s stance on divestiture. They assert that China has signaled its opposition to the divestment of the recommendation engine integral to TikTok’s success in the U.S.

The lawsuit seeks to prevent U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland from enforcing the law and requests “prospective injunctive relief” from the court.

Source: Reuters