TikTok Sues US Government Over Unlawful Forced Sale

Communication Author: EqualOcean News Editor: 周雯 May 09, 2024 05:08 PM (GMT+8)

According to EqualOcean, on May 7, 2024, the short-video application giant TikTok, along with its Chinese parent company ByteDance, jointly filed a lawsuit with the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals to block the enforcement of a law compelling TikTok's sale.


The law, overwhelmingly passed by the US Congress and signed by President Biden on April 24, 2024, alleges that Chinese authorities are manipulating and surveilling American users through TikTok, posing a threat to US national security. The law aims to protect Americans from control by foreign hostile forces and requires TikTok to seek new non-Chinese investors within 270 days (with a possibility of a 90-day extension if progress is made), with a deadline of January 19, 2025, for the sale of TikTok. Failure to comply would result in the removal of the app from all US app stores and its ban in the country.

Following the enactment of the law, TikTok CEO Shouzi Chew emphasized, "We're not going anywhere," in a video message, urging users to share their TikTok stories. TikTok issued a statement asserting that the law violates the freedom of speech of 170 million Americans. This lawsuit by TikTok also indicates that ByteDance has no intention of finding a buyer for TikTok but seeks to challenge the constitutionality of the law through legal channels.

In the 67-page complaint, TikTok's lawyers invoke the First Amendment of the Constitution, arguing that the US violates freedom of speech on the grounds of national security. They argue that the previous "sale or ban" law could now, under the guise of national security, order newspaper or website publishers to sell their publications to avoid closure, thus circumventing the First Amendment. They also argue the impossibility of separating TikTok from its Chinese parent company in terms of technology, business, and law.

Meanwhile, Gautam Hans, a law professor at Cornell University, stated that the basis of the "sale or ban" law is speculative concerns without actual evidence disclosure. Without open debate on the exact nature of the risks posed by TikTok, it is difficult to determine why the court should approve such an unprecedented law. It is worth noting that in 2022, TikTok successfully blocked a similar order by former President Donald Trump, with the judge ruling that the ban exaggerated its reasons and threatened freedom of speech, thus terminating its implementation. Similarly, in November 2023, TikTok and some users successfully challenged a ban imposed by the Montana state government, citing violation of the First Amendment.

In this appeal, the US government may be forced to publicly disclose confidential or sensitive information as evidence to justify the legality and effectiveness of the "sale or ban" law, rather than relying solely on political debates as before. TikTok, on the other hand, faces the challenge of a law supported by both US parties, which may lead to judges deferring to Congress on the risk assessment of TikTok's national security implications. It is generally believed that this lawsuit by TikTok against the US government will be protracted, potentially reaching the Supreme Court, and could affect interpretations of the First Amendment of the US Constitution and rulings on similar events.