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TikTok Takes Legal Action Against the U.S. Over Allegedly Unconstitutional Ban Legislation

TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, have filed a lawsuit against the United States challenging a law that mandates the app’s sale or face a ban, alleging it circumvents First Amendment rights by vaguely invoking national security concerns.

The lawsuit, filed as anticipated on Tuesday, sets the stage for a potentially lengthy legal battle over TikTok’s fate in the U.S., possibly reaching the Supreme Court. TikTok warns of imminent shutdown next year if it loses the case.

Critics argue that the law, part of a $95 billion foreign aid package signed by President Joe Biden, unfairly targets TikTok, marking the first instance of the U.S. singling out a social media platform for potential prohibition, a tactic more common in repressive regimes like Iran or China.

ByteDance contends that the law unconstitutionally bans TikTok, violating the rights of its 170 million American users and the broader global community of over one billion users.

The law mandates ByteDance to sell TikTok within nine months, subject to a three-month extension if already in progress. ByteDance asserts it has no plans to sell and would require approval from Beijing, which has opposed forced sales previously.

The lawsuit argues that complying with the law’s divestiture demand is impossible commercially, technologically, and legally, effectively leaving TikTok with no choice.

Under the law’s provisions, TikTok faces closure by January 19, 2025, prompting the lawsuit’s invocation of First Amendment protection for freedom of expression.

While the U.S. Justice Department and White House declined to comment, legal experts anticipate ByteDance will seek a temporary injunction to halt the law’s enforcement, a decision that could heavily influence the case’s outcome.

The legal battle unfolds amid heightened U.S.-China tensions, particularly concerning technology and data security, amid fears that Chinese authorities could access user data or manipulate content through TikTok.

Critics question the evidence supporting such claims, citing a lack of proof that TikTok shares data with Chinese authorities or manipulates content to align with their interests, arguing that banning the app could violate free speech rights.

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