TikTok threatens legal action in response to Trump’s executive order banning the app

August 7, 2020, 9:52 AM UTC

Popular short-video app TikTok said in a Friday statement that it will consider legal action to challenge President Donald Trump’s Thursday executive order restricting TikTok’s U.S. operations over national security concerns.

The company said it was “shocked” by Trump’s order, which takes effect in 45 days and prohibits companies and individuals under U.S. jurisdiction from conducting any transactions with ByteDance, the Chinese tech firm that owns TikTok.

“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 U.S. courts,” TikTok said in the statement on its website.

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According to the text of the executive order, the U.S. is restricting TikTok over concerns that the platform could spread “disinformation” and share U.S. user data with the Chinese government. It also cited TikTok’s alleged censorship of content deemed politically sensitive by China’s government.

TikTok says it has never shared data with the Chinese government or censored content at Beijing’s request.

“There has been, and continues to be, no due process or adherence to the law,” TikTok said of the U.S. government’s handling of the popular video platform.

Microsoft is currently in talks with ByteDance to purchase TikTok and take over its U.S. operations, a deal that would exempt TikTok from the executive order’s restrictions. Trump said he would support the Microsoft deal if the U.S. government received a portion of the sale price, an unusual and likely unfeasible presidential request.

TikTok argued that the executive order was issued “without any due process” and said the Trump administration over the past year has “paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.”

The Trump administration on Thursday issued a similar executive order to restrict Tencent Holdings–owned social messaging platform WeChat.

TikTok has become a flashpoint in the ongoing geopolitical disputes between the U.S. and China and emerged as a symbol of the countries’ bifurcating technology ecosystems. ByteDance has employed numerous strategies to avoid a U.S. ban on TikTok, including hiring lobbyists to advocate on TikTok’s behalf in Washington; offering to divest its stake in TikTok’s U.S. operations; setting up data servers outside mainland China; and establishing a “Transparency Center.”

TikTok even withdrew from the Hong Kong market after a sweeping national security law passed there gave authorities substantial power over the Internet and data in the region.

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