TikTok, the popular Chinese video sharing social network, is suing the U.S. Government. This most recent development comes on Monday, as the social network pushed blame on the Trump administration for denying due process after the President issued an executive order with the use of his emergency powers. The executive order seeks to block TikTok’s popular application from being used at all in the United States.
TikTok’s lawsuit was filed in the State of California in Federal District Court. The lawsuit is the most blatant move from the social network to push back against the executive order, and has continued the war between the company and U.S. officials.
This initial executive order is based off of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, an order that gives the President the ability to regulate transactions of an economic kind during a national emergency. The act has been used by other Presidents in the past to do things like stamp sanctions on a number of enemies from abroad but never to fight a technology company from operating on American soil.
Just a week after that executive order, Trump issued another one that decreed ByteDance divest any American assets and discard data attained in the U.S. within 90 days.
ByteDance maintained in a public statement that they did not take the lawsuit lightly, but felt as if it had no choice but to do so to protect their own rights. The company has more than 1,500 employees already in the United States and had been planning over the next few years on hiring as many as 10,000 more employees in eight different states.
The social media company also stated that the Trump administration has been unable to provide any evidence that they are an actual threat to the United States, and there is no real justification for these executive orders. ByteDance also asserted that some of the evidence being used against it as a national security threat came from old news articles that were not completely accurate.
ByteDance has also claimed its storage of user data was not a threat to the United States. The Trump administration has pointed out that user data from the company is stored on foreign servers. TikTok has fought back, claiming that it has taken numerous measures to make sure the user data they have is safe, private, and secure. In fact, the company has moved to store the data outside of China in the U.S. and Singapore. ByteDance has also created what it calls “software barriers” to keep the U.S. user data separate from other products owned by the company.
Finally, ByteDance has asserted that their top personnel were all based in the United States and did not have to adhere to Chinese law. Tiktok’s content moderation is also run by a team located in the United States with no ties to China.
This comes at a time when relations between the U.S. and China are fairly strained. There are a number of reasons for this, including trade, technology, geopolitics and the fact that the coronavirus originated in China. Trump’s executive orders come right before a Presidential election and are part of his overall attempt to prove to the American people that he is hard on China.
Trump has gone after a number of technology companies based in China maintaining that they are bound to strict government oversight from the country’s government. A Chinese company called Huawei which specialize in telecom equipment has also been targeted by the Trump administration at this time.
WeChat is experiencing the same issues as ByteDance and has also launched a counterattack on the administration. This past Friday WeChat Users Alliance, a nonprofit, filed a lawsuit in a San Francisco federal court. The lawsuit claimed the executive order was a violation of a number of constitutional rights, such as the First Amendment. WeChat is hoping for an injunction.
Law experts say that the courts will likely not go against the orders of the President, however, if they were to do so it could certainly be a way of reducing the powers of the office. Overall, there is an important precedent that could be set depending on the outcome of this lawsuit.
The future of the company is certainly up in the air for now. There have been rumors in the past few weeks that American based companies such as Microsoft and Oracle may purchase it so it could still operate, but nothing has been finalized. Accounts would then be migrated to the purchaser’s servers. These negotiations will likely take place simultaneously while the company battles the U.S. government in court.
At this time, the Justice Department has not commented on the lawsuit.