TikTok is suing the US government over a possible ban

TikTok sued the federal government on Tuesday over a new law that would force its Chinese owner ByteDance to sell the popular social media app or face a ban in the United States, sparking a battle over national security and freedom Opinion sparked that will likely end up all the way to the Supreme Court.

TikTok said the law violated the First Amendment by effectively removing an app that millions of Americans use to share their views and communicate freely. It also argued that a divestment was “simply not possible,” particularly within the law’s 270-day deadline, citing difficulties such as Beijing’s refusal to sell a key feature that powers TikTok in the United States.

“For the first time in history, Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single, designated speech platform to a permanent, nationwide ban and prohibits every American from participating in a unique online community of more than one billion people worldwide,” the company said says the 67-page petition that initiated the lawsuit. “There is no doubt: the law will force a shutdown of TikTok by January 19, 2025.”

TikTok is fighting for its survival in the US, with the battle primarily set to take place in court over the next few months. The fighting pits Congress’ national security concerns about the social media app’s ties to China against TikTok’s argument that a sale or ban would violate users’ First Amendment rights to free speech and harm small businesses that rely on the platform for their livelihoods. The case is expected to reach the Supreme Court.

The issue is particularly sensitive in an election year in which President Biden and lawmakers may face backlash from users of the popular app. The app, which claims to have 170 million monthly users in the United States, is used for everything from sharing viral dances to political commentary. It is integrated into people’s lives, especially those who make a living on the platform as content creators.

Under the new law, which President Biden signed on April 24, TikTok has nine months, or a year if the president grants an extension, to find a non-Chinese buyer. If it doesn’t, the law requires U.S. app stores and web hosting services to stop working with it – which essentially means a ban.

At the heart of the case will be lawmakers’ intent to protect the United States from what they and some are doing Experts say it is a national security threat; They claim that the Chinese government could rely on ByteDance to release sensitive TikTok user data or use the app to spread propaganda. However, the order to sell or block the app could lead to changes to TikTok’s content policies and affect what users can freely share on the platform, potentially violating their free speech rights, according to legal experts.

TikTok filed its lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, arguing that selling its U.S. operations was “not commercially, technologically or legally feasible.” Part of this argument hinges on the fact that TikTok and its competitors are global in nature, with content accessible across national borders, with international videos forming part of their appeal.

It would also be impossible to transfer the app’s underlying code to a new owner, TikTok argued, adding that it would take years for a new group of engineers to familiarize themselves with that code to develop the platform and waiting. In addition, engineers would need access to ByteDance software to keep TikTok functioning, which the new law prohibits, the company argued.

TikTok’s success also depends on its recommendation algorithm, which helps show users tailored content, something the Chinese government would not sell, according to the lawsuit.

TikTok pointed out the billions has spent to address potential security risks over the past four years and a draft 90-page national security agreement that made “extraordinary” commitments to the U.S. government. TikTok has separated its US user data from the rest of the company’s operations and provided independent oversight of its content recommendations.

The company said in its lawsuit that it agreed to give the government a “takedown option” that would allow it to suspend TikTok in the United States if the company violated parts of its agreement.

National security concerns about TikTok are “speculative” and insufficient to justify violating First Amendment rights, the company argued in its lawsuit, adding that the use of the platform by President Biden and other members of Congress supports the claims that it is a threat undermines.

TikTok asked the court to issue a declaratory judgment finding that the law violates the Constitution and to issue an order that would prevent Attorney General Merrick B. Garland from enforcing the law.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on possible litigation.

The government is likely to defend the law by calling for a sale, not a ban. The government will also likely need to make a strong case that its national security concerns justify restricting speech if TikTok is banned.

The Ministry of Justice, which was involved in drafting the law, dealt with the language That would help the Biden administration best defend them in court.

“They must back up their concerns with evidence in a way they have not done so far, at least not in the court of public opinion, and they must demonstrate that their concerns cannot be addressed in a narrower way,” said senior Ramya Krishnan attorney at Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, in an interview before the petition was filed.

The institute expects to support a challenge to the law, she said. The American Civil Liberties Union has also said it opposes the law and could help with litigation.

TikTok’s lawsuit was filed a day later its managing directorShou Chew, appeared with his wife at the Met Gala, where he was honorary chairman.

Fears of a potential security threat from TikTok have increased over the past year and a half, leading to this Bans on the app on federal devices and those of some city and state governments. Still, the app continues to grow in popularity, shaping culture and becoming a news source for younger Americans and a place where a growing group of content creators make a living.

TikTok has had success in challenging similar federal and state measures aimed at restricting its operations, although that law differs in its broad support from Congress and the Biden administration.

Last year, Montana passed a law that would ban TikTok from operating in the state starting Jan. 1, saying the company posed a security threat to its citizens. A group of TikTok users filed a lawsuit funded by the app, saying the law violated their First Amendment rights and exceeded the state’s legal authority. TikTok too submitted filed a separate lawsuit within a week arguing that the legislation violated the First Amendment.

In November, a federal judge blocked the Montana banand said it most likely violated the First Amendment and a clause giving Congress the power to regulate trade with foreign nations.

Former President Donald J. Trump also tried to ban or force the sale of TikTok in 2020 with an executive order citing similar security concerns. Federal courts blocked that The Commerce Department failed to implement its plan partly on First Amendment grounds, with a judge adding that it would shut down a “platform for expressive activity.” Another judge said the government was most likely exceeded his legal authority and “acted arbitrarily and capriciously, failing to consider obvious alternatives.”

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