TikTok sues Trump administration over US ban

Video-sharing app takes action following US president’s executive ban on transactions

TikTok is suing US president Donald Trump. Photos: Lionel Bonaventure and Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

TikTok is suing US president Donald Trump. Photos: Lionel Bonaventure and Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

 

TikTok on Monday sued US president Donald Trump's administration over his executive order banning transactions in the US with the popular short-form video app, calling it a pretext to fuel anti-China rhetoric as he seeks re-election.

The Chinese video-sharing-app and its parent ByteDance Ltd rejected what they called the White House’s position that the app was a national security threat, saying they had taken “extraordinary measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok’s US user data”.

They also called Mr Trump’s August 6th executive order calling for a TikTok ban a means to further his alleged “broader campaign of anti-China rhetoric” ahead of the November 3rd US presidential election, where Mr Trump is seeking a second term.

“We do not take suing the government lightly,” TikTok said in a blog post. “But with the executive order threatening to bring a ban on our US operations . . . we simply have no choice.”

The White House referred a request for comment to the US department of justice, which had no immediate response.

TikTok and ByteDance are seeking a permanent injunction to block Mr Trump from enforcing his August 6th order.

The lawsuit, filed in a Los Angeles federal court, names Mr Trump, the US department of commerce, and commerce secretary Wilbur Ross as defendants.

Amid growing distrust between Washington and Beijing, Mr Trump had for weeks complained that TikTok was a national security threat that might share information about users with the Chinese government.

His August 6th executive order called for a ban on transactions with the app to come into effect after 45 days.

Mr Trump issued a separate executive order on August 14th giving ByteDance 90 days to divest TikTok’s US operations and any data TikTok had gathered in the US.

Reuters reported last week that TikTok had been preparing a legal challenge.

TikTok said the Trump administration violated its constitutional right to due process by banning the company without notice.

It accused Mr Trump of misusing the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which lets the president regulate international commerce during a national emergency.

Mr Trump had in May 2019 invoked an emergency under that law to stop alleged efforts by foreign telecommunications companies to conduct economic and industrial espionage against the US.

Intelligence work

The Trump administration has said Americans should be cautious in using TikTok. Under a law introduced in 2017 under president Xi Jinping, Chinese companies have an obligation to support and co-operate in China’s national intelligence work.

But TikTok said Mr Trump’s August 6th order was not rooted in genuine national security concerns or supported by the emergency he had declared a year earlier.

It called the order “a gross misappropriation of IEEPA authority and a pretext for furthering the president’s broader campaign of anti-China rhetoric in the run-up to the US election”.

ByteDance had acquired Shanghai-based video app Musical.ly in a $1 billion transaction in 2017, and relaunched it as TikTok the following year.

Since Mr Trump’s order, ByteDance has been in talks to sell TikTok’s North American, Australian and New Zealand operations to companies including Microsoft Corp and Oracle Corp.

Those assets could be worth $25 billion to $30 billion, people familiar with the matter have said. – Reuters