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UPDATE: Creators Join TikTok in Suing to Prevent U.S. Ban

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[Update as of May 15, 2024] Eight TikTok creators have launched a separate lawsuit against the U.S. government ban, claiming that the new law would violate their First Amendment rights by shuttering a platform that has become an essential “part of American life,” multiple sources report.

Original story from May 8, 2024 begins-

TikTok has filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, seeking to stop the recently signed legislation that would require the platform to be sold to a non-Chinese entity by January 2025 or be banned. The suit claims that banning TikTok is not only impractical but “obviously unconstitutional,” impinging on the free speech rights of the 170 million Americans who use it.

In addition to the entertainment aspects of TikTok’s short-form videos, the platform has become an important commerce channel. TikTok Shop had 15 million sellers worldwide in December 2023, according to the company, including more than 500,000 in the U.S. In March 2024 TikTok introduced new tools to support its “Commerce Everywhere” mission.

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TikTok’s suit claims that the “qualified divestiture” option offered to the platform’s owner ByteDance “is simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally. And certainly not on the 270-day timeline required by the Act.” And even if such actions were possible, TikTok’s suit says that the law “would allow the government to decide that a company may no longer own and publish the innovative and unique speech platform it created. If Congress can do this, it can circumvent the First Amendment by invoking national security and ordering the publisher of any individual newspaper or website to sell to avoid being shut down.”

The legislation was spurred in large part by national security concerns over China-based TikTok’s collection and handling of U.S. user data. However, the company said data would have been adequately protected under a national security agreement developed via negotiations with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), “including agreeing to a ‘shut-down option’ that would give the government the authority to suspend TikTok in the United States if [TikTok] violates certain obligations under the agreement.”

U.S. legislators who supported the bill cited national security briefings they had received about TikTok’s potential dangers. In remarks on the Senate floor in April reported by CNN, Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) addressed Americans who are “rightfully skeptical” of the legislation: “At the end of the day, they’ve not seen what Congress has seen. They’ve not been in the classified briefings that Congress has held, which have delved more deeply into some of the threat posed by the foreign control of TikTok.”

However, TikTok’s suit counters this claim: “Even the statements by individual members of Congress and a congressional committee report merely indicate concern about the hypothetical possibility that TikTok could be misused in the future, without citing specific evidence — even though the platform has operated prominently in the United States since it was first launched in 2017.”

The U.S. isn’t the only country concerned with the platform’s ties to China, with TikTok running afoul of regulations in other countries as well: in September 2023 parent company ByteDance was fined €345 million (approximately $368 million) by the Irish Data Protection Commission for a series of violations of children’s data privacy.

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