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Lawsuits & Litigation

TikTok Plans to Sue Trump Administration

— August 12, 2020

TikTok says Trump’s executive order banning the company from doing business in the United States was unconstitutional.

TikTok is preparing to sue the White House over President Donald Trump’s executive order banning the social media company from operating in the United States.

National Public Radio reports that TikTok may file the lawsuit as early as this week. The legal challenge will likely land in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, close to the company’s U.S. headquarters.

An anonymous source—who National Public Radio said was not authorized to discuss the impending case—told NPR that TikTok believes that Trump’s executive action against the company was illegal, in that it gave TikTok no time to respond to allegations against it.

Furthermore, TikTok maintains that Trump’s justification for banning the service—its purported ties to the Chinese Communist Party—is baseless.

“It’s based on pure speculation and conjecture,” NPR’s source said. “The order has no findings of fact, [it] just reiterates rhetoric about China that has been kicking around.”

As LegalReader reported last week, TikTok is also facing an assortment of privacy lawsuits. One challenge—now a prospective class action, comprised of families in California and Illinois—claims that TikTok illegally harvests children’s data, in violation of state laws mandating that social media companies obtain written consent before obtaining and recording minors’ information.

That lawsuit, like President Trump, claims that TikTok either shares information with the Chinese Communist Party or shares data with third-party companies, which in turn comply with intelligence requests from the Chinese government.

In response, an attorney for TikTok—similar to NPR’s source—stated that such allegations are baseless, xenophobic, and capitalizing upon distrust of China amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic.

TikTok open on an iPhone. Image via Max Pixel. Public domain.

One way or another, TikTok says that President Trump’s proposed ban on the service came as a shock to its management.

“We are shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process,” TikTok said in a statement. “The text of the decision makes it plain that there has been a reliance on unnamed ‘reports’ with no citations, fears that the app ‘may be’ used for misinformation campaigns with no substantiation of such fears, and concerns about the collection of data that is industry standard for thousands of mobile apps around the world.”

NPR notes that the White House has so far refused to comment upon TikTok’s planned litigation.

“The Administration is committed to protecting the American people from all cyber related threats to critical infrastructure, public health and safety, and our economic and national security,” White House spokesperson Judd Deere said.

President Trump’s executive order, add NPR and FOX Business, will ban TikTok from the United States; the order takes effect in 45 days from its issuance.

The executive order provides time for TikTok to either comply with U.S. government requests or sell out to a U.S.-based company. Microsoft is in talks with TikTok parent ByteDance about a potential acquisition.

If TikTok is not acquired by Microsoft or another non-China-based company, it will be prohibited from marketing its app in U.S. virtual markets—like the Apple Store and Google Play—and from sending updates to existing users. Companies which attempt to defy President Trump’s ban will be subject to a $300,000 fine, while “willful” offenders could face criminal prosecution.


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