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TikTok to sue US government over ban

TikTok has confirmed it will launch a lawsuit against the US government with regards to the Chinese app maker’s ban. Any potential lawsuit, however, will not prevent the company from being compelled to sell off the app in the US market. 

TikTok reiterated its previous stance that it had worked to engage the Trump administration for almost a year to “provide a construction solution” to resolve concerns the latter had about the app. 

“What we encountered instead was a lack of due process as the administration paid no attention to facts and tried to inset itself into negotiations between private businesses,” the company said in a statement issued to several media outlets, after Reuters first broke the news Saturday. 

“To ensure that the rule of law is not discarded, and that our company and users are treated fairly, we have no choice but to challenge the executive order through the judicial system,” TikTok said.

Donald Trump earlier this month signed two executive orders barring any US transaction with TikTok, its parent company ByteDance, and its subsidiaries, as well as with popular Chinese messaging app WeChat and its parent company Tencent. The US President alleged that apps developed in China threatened his country’s national security, foreign policy, and economy. “TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories,” the order noted. “This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information, potentially allowing China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct espionage.”

TikTok reportedly planned to argue in its lawsuit that Trump’s first August 6 executive order, filed under the US International Emergency Economic Powers Act, deprived the Chinese company of due process. It also planned to fight its label as a national security threat by the US government, Reuters reported. 

TikTok did not specify which court it planned to tap for its lawsuit, but this move would not stop the company from being compelled to relinquish its US operations, which was laid out under Trump’s second executive order issued on August 14 and was not subject to judicial review.

The August 14 order gave TikTok’s parent company ByteDance 90 days to sell of its business in the US. Discussions were ongoing with Microsoft and, more recently, Oracle involving a potential sale.

According to TikTok, 100 million Americans used its platform. It recently unveiled new measures it said aimed to stem misinformation and content designed to disrupt the US elections in November. These included updates to its policies for better clarity on what was and was not allowed on its platform and wider collaboration with fact-checking partners as well as the US Department of Homeland Security, such as on efforts to verify election-related information, in-app reporting of election misinformation, and safeguard against foreign interference. 

It also refuted suggestions it shared user data with the Chinese government or censored content at the government’s request. “In fact, we make our moderation guidelines and algorithm source code available in our transparency center, which is a level of accountability no peer company has committed to,” TikTok had said. “We even expressed our willingness to pursue a full sale of the US business to an American company.”

Trump had suggested the US government should receive a “substantial” cut of the acquisition for “making it possible”.

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