TikTok Could Bring Potential Ban to Court

Estimated read time 2 min read
  • TikTok is said to be preparing a legal battle should a ban pass.
  • The company has previously argued that a ban infringes on the First Amendment.
  • If unsuccessful, its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, would have to divest TikTok.

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TikTok is not going down without a fight.

The popular social-media app faces an existential threat: A bill set to be voted on (and expected to pass) in the House on Wednesday seeks to ban the app unless its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, sells it to a non-Chinese owner. The bill would still need to pass in the US Senate and then be signed into law by President Joe Biden.

TikTok is responding in full force. On Thursday, it mobilized its users to call their local representatives and express opposition to the bill. It also sent out CEO Shou Chew to lobby senators ahead of the House vote, Punchbowl News reported. And now, it’s preparing for potential litigation.

People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that the company was planning to exhaust all legal avenues before considering being split from Chinese company ByteDance.

TikTok and free-speech groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union argue that a ban would infringe on the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

The Wall Street Journal reported that crafters of the bill expected litigation and crafted the text in anticipation of a lawsuit.

The bill focuses on a ban as a means to “protect the national security of the United States” by what it calls “foreign adversary controlled applications.”

Sarah Kreps, a political scientist who’s the director of the Tech Policy Institute at New York’s Cornell University, previously told Business Insider that the bill’s focus on national security as a reason to restrict speech on the app could bolster the US government’s argument in court.

If TikTok loses its legal battle, its parent company, ByteDance, must divest the social-media platform. This could also prove challenging, as the Chinese government has said it opposes a forced sale of TikTok. Shu Jueting, a spokesperson for the commerce ministry, previously told CNN that according to Chinese law, China’s government must approve the sale of the app.

TikTok didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.