TikTok Sues United States Government, Doing Little To Beat The 'Cyberweapon Of Chinese Government' Allegations

May 7th, 2024 - 5:47 PM EDT by Aidan Walker

4 comments | Contact Newsroom

Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, looking at smartphones with the TikTok logo floating beside them.

Earlier today, TikTok sued the United States government, arguing that the bill passed in Congress last month to ban TikTok unless it is sold to an American company constitutes a violation of the First Amendment.

Many expected TikTok to sue, and the CEO Shou Zi Chew promised he would fight the ban in the courts just hours after the bill was signed by President Joe Biden.

TikTok and its parent company Bytedance filed the legal motion in the Washington D.C. District Court of Appeals, a court that frequently decides on matters involving government regulation.

The defendant in the suit is listed as Merrick Garland, who is the Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department.


The legal suit argues that banning TikTok is "obviously unconstitutional" and characterizes the platform as a "publisher," comparing itself to a newspaper and arguing that a ban of TikTok in the name of national security is the equivalent to banning a media outlet.

TikTok argues that the bill forcing its sale is a ban because selling itself to an American company is not an option, since the Chinese government would never "permit" that sale.

Many users read the part of the lawsuit about how China would ban a sale as the company "saying the quiet part out loud." They identified the passage as proof that TikTok is controlled by China, just as the U.S. government alleges.

Recent reporting by Rest of World and other outlets indicate that the Chinese government's ties to TikTok are deep and entrenched, with many employees reporting to staff based in China.

Bytedance, TikTok's parent company, is technically headquartered in the Cayman Islands (like many big corporations for legal and tax reasons) but Bytedance is predominantly Chinese-run.

Online, supporters of TikTok have also made much of some recent remarks by Senator Mitt Romney in which he could have been interpreted as saying a reason behind the TikTok ban was to help Israel improve its public relations amid the ongoing conflict.

The court case is not a surprising development, since TikTok promised to fight the ban as soon as the idea was floated. The company also successfully fought a ban declared through an executive order by Donald Trump in 2020.

The outcome of the case will likely have echoes beyond just TikTok, however, as the legal system tries to figure out what authorities the government may or may not have over social media and the speech, commerce and data-gathering that happens through it.

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