Mark Schiefelbein / AP
TikTok is planning to sue the Trump administration, challenging the president’s executive order to ban the service from the United States.
The video-sharing app that is hugely popular with the smartphone generation TikTok will file a federal lawsuit as early as Tuesday, according to a person directly involved in the upcoming lawsuit but not authorized to speak to the public. ty. It will be filed with the Southern District Court of California, the site of TikTok’s operations headquarters in the US, the person said.
The NPR already knew that the lawsuit would consider the president’s sweeping action unconstitutional because it did not give the company a chance to react. It also alleges that the administration’s national security justification for the order is unfounded, according to the source.
“It’s based on pure speculation and conjecture,” the source said. “This order has no findings on reality, only reiterates the rhetoric about China has made.”
The White House declined to comment on the proposed lawsuit, but defended the president’s executive order. “The administration is committed to protecting the American people from all cyber threats to our vital infrastructure, public health and safety, as well as our economy and national security” , according to White House spokesman Judd Deere.
Thursday evening executive orders do
According to the president’s executive order Thursday night, “any transaction” between a US citizen and Beijing-based TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, will be outlawed for 45 days for national security reasons.
Such a sweeping ban would be fatal to TikTok in America
It is extremely popular among teenagers and twenties in the US, where more than 100 million users have downloaded the app. They use it to share dances and comedies in 60-second videos, which often go viral. The app has become such a cultural phenomenon that it has become a platform for discovering new music and has even launched some Billboard breakout hits. The app has also been used against the president, including when thousands of teenagers book tickets to attend the presidential rally in Tulsa, Okla.
If the president’s ban goes into effect, the app may no longer be able to send software updates, leaving TikTok unmanageable on smartphones and ultimately inactive over time.
The lawsuit is intended to cut off US advertisers on their apps and force Apple and Google to remove the app from its mobile app stores.
TikTok’s more than 1,000 employees in the United States could experience salary freezing indefinitely. It could force TikTok operators to deport them. And Trump’s order may prevent American lawyers from representing TikTok in any US legal proceedings.
Sources familiar with TikTok’s internal discussions on the matter said the chairman’s order appeared urgently and did not include corrective actions or exceptions for TikTok to maintain any legal representation. , which the company argues is a violation of due process rights.
Usually, if the federal government does an investigation, it will notify the company with a subpoena or some other kind of notice requesting a response to the allegations of misconduct or conduct. illegal behavior. Federal investigators also sometimes call company representatives to a secret meeting about a stalking coercive action.
According to people working in TikTok’s legal team, there was no such approach from the White House to request evidence that took place before Thursday’s executive order, and TikTok’s lawyers see it as a short cut. of standard procedure.
Therefore, the move of the chairman surprised many people in TikTok.
Officials at TikTok have acknowledged a lot about its response to the order. TikTok said in a statement: “We were shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any legal process. “The text of the decision clarifies that there is a dependency on unnamed and unquoted ‘reports’, concerned that the application” could be “used for misinformation campaigns without There is evidence of those concerns and that data collection concern is the industry standard for thousands of mobile apps around the world. “
Officials at TikTok declined to comment publicly on the lurking legal war.
Violating the TikTok ban was fined $ 300,000
Violating the order will result in a heavy fine. After the 45-day deadline, doing business with TikTok could result in a $ 300,000 fine per offense and “willful” offenders could even be subject to criminal prosecution.
Another possible issue in TikTok’s legal challenge is the argument that Trump has been beyond his authority to issue executive orders.
The order is issued in part under the executive power known as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which gives the president the broad authority to impose economic sanctions when there is a “real threat. normal and unusual “, such as a threat to national security.
There are exceptions to that power that TikTok’s lawyers will likely emphasize in their lawsuit. For example, permissions cannot be used to regulate or prohibit “personal communication” or share movies and other forms of media, which TikTok can argue is the app’s primary use.
If Congress believes that the president has illegally used emergency economic rights, lawmakers can bypass the order by passing a resolution that will terminate the order.
But any opposition from Congress is unlikely, as skepticism about the Chinese Communist Party’s potential relationship with the country’s tech companies has drawn support from the two. party.
The Senate, by a unanimous vote, passed a bill on Thursday banning TikTok on all government-enacted devices.
Washington is concerned about China’s access to US citizens’ data
TikTok’s terms of service clearly outline what it collects from its users, including location data, browsing history and personal contacts.
The app also informs users that data can be shared with its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. This has raised concerns in Washington that authorities in the Chinese government may have the ability to access US citizens’ data and include that information for use in a blackmail scheme or in a targeted disinformation campaign.
Neither the Trump administration nor TikTok’s critics outside of the government provide evidence that the short-form video app has ever collaborated with the Chinese authorities.
Some technology experts say that concerns over China are valid.
Former White House official Lindsay Gorman, who is now a member of the Democratic Assurance Coalition, told NPR that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is finally part of the Chinese Communist Party.
“The harsh reality of how businesses operate in China means that if the CCP wants that data, it will retrieve it,” said Gorman.
She added: “Leaving TikTok under Chinese ownership created an information space gap at the time leading up to the election as political communication increasingly took place on the platform.”
TikTok officials see the executive order as essentially a campaign of pressure, a way for a US company to quickly acquire the app’s assets in the United States.
Microsoft – the US tech giant that owns Xbox, LinkedIn and Skype – has been in talks to buy TikTok, but those discussions are still in the early stages.
Editor’s note: TikTok helps to sponsor NPR content to appear on the social media platform.