TikTok launches attack against US law that forces app to be sold or banned


This article was last updated on May 9, 2024

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TikTok launches attack against US law that forces app to be sold or banned

Video app TikTok has filed a lawsuit against the US government. The aim is to prevent a law that will force the Chinese parent company ByteDance to sell TikTok. It is the start of a likely long procedure that will probably end at the Supreme Court.

“For the first time in history, Congress has passed a law that subjects a platform to a permanent nationwide ban,” TikTok says. The company calls the law “unconstitutional” and states that the law goes against freedom of expression, a very important asset in the US.

Sell ​​or ban

The charge is prompted by a law signed by President Biden two weeks ago. It states that TikTok must be sold within nine months, a period that can be extended by another three months. If this is not possible within that time, the app will in fact be banned in the US.

In practice, the download stores of Apple and Google – which together dominate the mobile market – are no longer allowed to offer the app to new customers. Even more importantly, hosting parties that ensure that these types of apps function are also no longer allowed to do business with TikTok.

In the complaint, TikTok says a sale is “simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally.” And according to the company, this is not possible within the specified nine months. “There is no doubt: the law will force the shutdown of TikTok by January 15, 2025, silencing 170 million Americans who use the platform.”

The company also states that a separate American version of TikTok is not “commercially realistic”. This is because TikTok, like its competitors, operates globally with content that is available everywhere. If the app is separated from the rest in the US, the company argues, the app will become an “island”. Users will then not see anything from other parts of the world, making the app much less valuable.

Chinese made

American politicians have been very critical of TikTok for some time. This has to do with the fact that the app is made in China and is part of ByteDance, which was founded in China. The fear is that Beijing can access the data of tens of millions of Americans through the app and that the government can spread disinformation through the algorithm.

Evidence that this actually happens has never been given. TikTok has always denied accusations of interference from Beijing. The fact that many children in the US are probably addicted to the app is also an important point.

It has already led to several attempts to ban the app. For example, then-President Trump tried to do so in 2020, but his attempt failed in court. Last March, a ban seemed imminent again, after a very tough hearing by the CEO of TikTok before the US Congress. However, legislative proposals subsequently disappeared from the scene.

Then it became quiet for months. But appearances are deceiving: behind the scenes, work was being done on a law that might survive a lawsuit. That law passed the House of Representatives in March, but then seemed to fail in the Senate. Until it was added to aid packages for Israel and Ukraine. The period that ByteDance was given to arrange the sale was extended.

In the meantime, ByteDance seems to be reluctant to make a sale. Reuters news agency reported late last month based on sources that the parent company would rather see TikTok disappear from the US than make an acquisition. The only option left is the legal route. It was officially launched today.

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