by Tali Arbel
TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, insisted Monday that it is not a national-security threat and that the government is acting without evidence or due process. The company said it will file suit against the government later Monday in federal court in California. A copy of the complaint could not be obtained.
President Donald Trump has issued two executive orders in August, first a sweeping but unspecified ban on any“transaction” with ByteDance, to take effect within 45 days. He then ordered ByteDance to sell assets used to support TikTok in the U.S.
Over past year, TikTok has tried to put distance between its app, which it says has 100 million U.S. users, and its Chinese owners. It installed a former top Disney executive as its American CEO and named two other Americans chief security officer and general counsel. TikTok has also said it is willing to sell its U.S. operations and has held talks with Microsoft with to buy parts of its English-language app. Other companies and investors have reportedly expressed interest as well.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have shared concerns about TikTok that ranged from its vulnerability to censorship and misinformation campaigns to the safety of user data and children’s privacy. But the administration has provided no specific evidence that TikTok has made U.S. users’ data available to the Chinese government.
Instead, officials point to the hypothetical threat that lies in the Chinese government’s ability to demand cooperation from Chinese companies. TikTok says it has not shared U.S. user data with the Chinese government and would not do so, and that it does not censor videos at the request of Chinese authorities.
In excerpts of from its forthcoming complaint, TikTok said that it has protected U.S. user data by storing it in the U.S. and Singapore, not China, and “by erecting software barriers that help ensure that TikTok stores its U.S. user data separately from the user data of other ByteDance products.”
The company says Trump’s Aug. 6 order banning TikTok “with no notice or opportunity to be heard” violated its Fifth Amendment due-process rights. It also says that the order is not acting “based on a bona fide national emergency” and seeks to ban activities that “have not been found to be “an unusual and extraordinary threat,” which it says is required by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which Trump cited as one of the bases for his order.
Getting a court to overturn the government’s determination that it is a national-security threat would be very difficult, said Christian Davis, a Washington lawyer with Akin Gump whose practice focuses on foreign investment and international trade.
The administration has “significant discretion” with national-security issues, he said. While due-process claims might be easier to argue, it’s not clear what TikTok could gain. He said the company could possibly win a delay in the order’s implementation or force a rewrite of the order to address concerns.
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Tali Arbel is a technology reporter for The Associated Press.