Law & the Courts

TikTok Threatens Litigation After Trump Issues Executive Order Banning the App in 45 Days

A man holding a phone walks past a TikTok sign, at the International Artificial Products Expo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, October 18, 2019. (Stringer/Reuters)

TikTok is threatening to sue the Trump administration over an executive order issued Thursday evening banning Americans from transacting with ByteDance, the Chinese technology firm that owns the short-form video app, beginning Sept. 20.

“We are shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process,” the company said in a statement. “This Executive Order risks undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law, which has served as a magnet for investment and spurred decades of American economic growth.”

The order comes after weeks of warning from the administration, from both President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that the U.S. was seeking to ban the app in light of security concerns. U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern for months that ByteDance could share U.S. users’ private data with the Chinese Communist Party, though TikTok has repeatedly denied this claim, insisting that U.S. user data is stored in the United States, with a backup in Singapore. 

Microsoft announced on Sunday it was in talks to acquire the app’s U.S. operations and hoped to do so by Sept. 15 with the blessing of the president. Trump on Monday said absent a deal with Microsoft or another U.S. company, TikTok would have to close its U.S. operations by Sept. 15.

The executive order bars Americans from doing business with ByteDance and Tencent, the owner of another popular Chinese app WeChat, beginning Sept. 20. TikTok has 100 million users in the U.S., while WeChat has been downloaded 19 million times in the U.S., Reuters reports.

“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,” TikTok said.

The company added that the order “sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets. We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the Administration, then by the US courts.”

Trump’s order alleges that TikTok “captures vast swathes of information from its users” that can be used by China to “track the locations of federal employees…build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

“The U.S. is using national security as an excuse and using state power to oppress non-American businesses. That’s just a hegemonic practice,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, said on Friday, Reuters reports.

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