TikTok plans to file lawsuit over Trump crackdown

SAN FRANCISCO (NYTIMES) – TikTok plans to file a lawsuit against the US government, the company confirmed on Saturday (Aug 22), arguing that President Donald Trump’s moves to block the app had deprived it of due process and arguing it had been unfairly and incorrectly treated as a security threat.

The lawsuit, which the company plans to file next week, would amount to the most public pushback against the US by TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese Internet company ByteDance.

The company plans to argue that it was not provided due process before the president’s executive order to ban the app from the US within 45 days.

“Even though we strongly disagree with the administration’s concerns, for nearly a year we have sought to engage in good faith to provide a constructive solution,” Josh Gartner, a TikTok spokesman, said in a statement.

“What we encountered instead was a lack of due process as the administration paid no attention to facts and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.”

For months, Trump has railed against TikTok and its ties to China, arguing that the app was a national security threat and that it could share data about its users with the Chinese government.

On Aug 6, Trump issued an executive order against TikTok, saying it would ban transactions with the app within 45 days.

A week later, he issued a separate executive order giving ByteDance 90 days to divest from its US assets and any data that TikTok had gathered in the US.

Trump’s actions have pushed ByteDance to seek a sale of TikTok’s US operations to a US company. Microsoft and Oracle are among those that have recently held discussions for such a deal. The companies remain in negotiations for a potential acquisition of TikTok.

TikTok, which has repeatedly denied that it shares data with Beijing, previously tried to pacify the Trump administration. But as the White House’s actions escalated, TikTok became more critical of its moves.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump’s first executive order against TikTok draws its legal authority from the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which allows the president to regulate economic transactions in a national emergency.

Past administrations have used it to sanction foreign governments as well as terrorists, drug kingpins and hackers, but never a leading technology company with global operations.

Past administrations have also used the authority somewhat cautiously, wary that a legal challenge could result in a court curtailing some of the president’s expansive powers.

Some Trump administration advisers have also been concerned about such an outcome, but others view the economic powers as a kind of blank cheque, giving the administration expansive authority to restrict US commerce.

Jason M. Waite, a partner at Alston and Bird, said the order raised serious questions, including whether the provision could be used to target people or companies registered in the US, even if they had a foreign parent company.

“Using this authority against a Hezbollah leader does not present litigation risk like using this authority against a major global technology company,” he said.

He added that the odds would be in the president’s favour but that the administration had still opened itself up to the possibility of having its economic powers curtailed.

Reuters previously reported on TikTok’s plan to file suit.

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