TikTok staff prepare legal action against Trump’s executive order

Move comes amid growing dismay among employees over US government demands

TikTok’s new office space at the C3 campus in Culver City, LA. Photograph: Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty

TikTok’s new office space at the C3 campus in Culver City, LA. Photograph: Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty

 

A group of TikTok employees in the US is preparing to take legal action against president Donald Trump’s executive order on the short-video app, amid fears that restrictions on the platform’s US operations could threaten their jobs.

Earlier this week, Patrick Ryan, a California-based technical programme manager for TikTok, launched a campaign to raise funds for an injunction against Mr Trump’s order, which will prohibit “any person ... or property” in the US from transacting with TikTok’s Chinese parent, ByteDance, from mid-September onwards.

Though Microsoft is currently in talks with ByteDance about a potential acquisition of TikTok that could spare the company any restrictions, a growing number of its 1,500 US staff fear that if a deal is not struck by the deadline, they will no longer be able to accept pay cheques from their employer under the sweeping terms of the order.

So far, the David versus Goliath-style campaign – which argues that the Trump administration should “change the order so that TikTok can still pay employees” – has raised close to $12,000 out of a targeted $30,000 to cover legal costs, through more than 40 donations.

The move comes amid growing dismay and uncertainty among TikTok employees over the US government’s demands. One TikTok executive said they felt US regulators had taken a “bellicose posture” against the company, adding that there was an atmosphere of “sadness and resignation” internally about the situation. “There’s a resignation that this is the geopolitical environment we are in,” the executive said.

TikTok has said it is “shocked” by the executive order, arguing it was “issued without any due process” and risked undermining the trust of businesses in the rule of law in the US. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020