TikTok creators go to court against impending sell-or-ban law in US

TikTok creators go to court against impending sell-or-ban law in US

FILE PHOTO: TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

A group of TikTok creators said Tuesday they filed suit in U.S. federal court seeking to block a law signed by President Joe Biden that would force the divestiture of the short video app used by 170 million Americans or ban it, saying it has had “a profound effect on American life.”

The TikTok users suing include a Texas Marine Corps veteran who sells his ranch products, a Tennessee woman selling cookies and discussing parenting, a North Dakota college coach who makes sports commentary videos, a Mississippi hip hop artist who shares Biblical quizzes and a recent college graduate in North Carolina who advocates for the rights of sexual-assault survivors.

“Although they come from different places, professions, walks of life, and political persuasions, they are united in their view that TikTok provides them a unique and irreplaceable means to express themselves and form community,” said the lawsuit.

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, a law firm representing the creators, provided a copy of the lawsuit to Reuters it said had been filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The White House declined comment. A Justice Department spokesperson said the TikTok law “addresses critical national security concerns in a manner that is consistent with the First Amendment and other constitutional limitations. We look forward to defending the legislation in court.”

The suit, which seeks injunctive relief, says the law threatens free speech and “promises to shutter a discrete medium of communication that has become part of American life.”

Last week, TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance filed a similar lawsuit, arguing that the law violates the U.S. Constitution on a number of grounds including running afoul of First Amendment free speech protections.

TikTok creators filed a similar suit in 2020 to block a prior attempt to block the app under then President Donald Trump, and also sued last year in Montana asking a court to block a state ban. In both instances, courts blocked the bans.

Trump has since reversed course and criticized efforts to ban TikTok but has not joined the app.

The law, signed by Biden on April 24, gives ByteDance until Jan. 19 to sell TikTok or face a ban. The White House has said it wants to see Chinese-based ownership ended on national security grounds but not a ban on TikTok.

The law prohibits app stores like Apple, and Alphabet’s Google, from offering TikTok and bars internet hosting services from supporting TikTok unless ByteDance divests TikTok.

The creators suit said “because TikTok currently has approximately 170 million users in the United States, the fine for continuing to enable access to TikTok would be roughly $850 billion.”

The suit says to the extent the government may claim the law is needed to protect Americans’ data, “it has tried that strategy before and lost.” The suit says “the concerns are speculative, and even if they were not, they could be addressed with legislation much more narrowly tailored to any purported concern.”

The TikTok lawsuit said last week the divestiture “is simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally … There is no question: the Act (law) will force a shutdown of TikTok by January 19, 2025.”

Driven by worries among U.S. lawmakers that China could access data on Americans or spy on them with the app, the measure was passed overwhelmingly in Congress just weeks after being introduced.

The four-year battle over TikTok is a significant front in the ongoing conflict over the internet and technology between the United States and China. In April, Apple said China had ordered it to remove Meta Platform’s WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China over Chinese national security concerns.

Biden could extend the Jan. 19 deadline by three months if he determines ByteDance is making progress. The creators suit notes Biden’s campaign uses TikTok, quoting his campaign’s deputy manager as saying it “would be silly to write off any place where people are getting information about the president.”

Reuters

Bring stories like this into your inbox every day.

Sign up for our newsletter - The Daily Brief
Subscribe to Newsletter

This is your last free story for the month. Register to continue reading our content