TikTok, social media’s runaway hit and one of President Trump’s favorite punching bags, explained through its official blog that it’s done trying to jump through hoops to please the White House. On Monday, the company said it’s suing to protect itself and its users.
“The executive order issued by the administration on Aug. 6, 2020 has the potential to strip the rights of that community without any evidence to justify such an extreme action, and without any due process,” the company said.
For several weeks Trump and administration officials have cast TikTok as a national security threat, culminating in an Aug. 6 executive order that banned transactions with the app in 45 days. Eight days later, another executive order placed a 90-day deadline on the developer to sell off its U.S. business or leave the American market, as well as give up any data collected in the U.S.
“Now is the time for us to act,” TikTok wrote. “We do not take suing the government lightly, however we feel we have no choice but to take action to protect our rights, and the rights of our community and employees.“
The popular app, which counts 100 million people among its U.S. user base, is owned by ByteDance, a company based in Beijing. The developer maintains that its U.S. business stands apart from its Chinese lineage, with decisively American leadership, decision-making and operations. The division employs 1,500 workers in the U.S. and plans to hire an additional 10,000 people across California, Texas, New York, Tennessee, Florida, Michigan, Illinois and Washington state, the company said.
According to TikTok, while the U.S. government’s concerns are baseless and speculative — with no evidence to back them up — it has tried to address them numerous times. “[We have] taken extraordinary measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok’s U.S. user data,” the company noted.
And yet, it added, its “extensive efforts” to address the administration’s concerns have been ignored. TikTok also argues that Trump’s executive order runs afoul of the Fifth Amendment, as it banned the company without notice, and that Trump’s use of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act was improper. The law allows the president to regulate international commerce in the event of a national emergency. But there’s no justification for it here, the company contended.
“The order is ultra vires because it is not based on a bona fide national emergency and authorizes the prohibition of activities that have not been found to pose ‘an unusual and extraordinary threat,’” TikTok said in its complaint.
The company believes the President’s actions serve political interests, not national security.
There’s a lot at stake. Over time, TikTok’s ambitions have grown. Like most social media platforms these days, the company is pushing further into commerce and shopping opportunities, lining up fashion partnerships and other deals.
When ByteDance bought Shanghai-based Musical.ly two years ago, the deal was worth $1 billion. Now, a year after the business relaunched as TikTok, those assets are believed to be worth as much as $30 billion.
TikTok is expected to file its complaint sometime on Monday.