Social Media /

TikTok Sues U.S. Government Over Ban

The company's attorneys argue that the legislation mandating divestiture is unconstitutional

TikTok Sues U.S. Government Over Ban

Social media company TikTok is suing the United States government in a bid to halt the enforcement of recently passed legislation that would force the company’s Chinese owner to sell the platform or have it banned in the U.S.

The company writes in the 67-page lawsuit that the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act is unconstitutional.

While proposed TikTok bans have circulated for years, this latest bill was introduced in March after renewed concerns that China is using the app to spy and use its algorithm to divide Americans.

According to the suit, lawmakers have provided no evidence that the company proposes a security risk or has been used as a propaganda tool.

The rush to approve the legislation also followed new concerns voiced by pro-Israel advocates, who have stated for months that the social media platform was a “problem” because its content was overwhelmingly hostile to Israel’s post-Oct. 7 deadly military operation in Gaza, which has resulted in more than 34,000 dead Palestinians, roughly three-quarters of whom were noncombatant women and children.

“Banning TikTok is so obviously unconstitutional, in fact, that even the Act’s sponsors recognized that reality, and therefore have tried mightily to depict the law not as a ban at all, but merely a regulation of TikTok’s ownership,” says the lawsuit, which was filed on May 7 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The company’s lawyers explain:

According to its sponsors, the Act responds to TikTok’s ultimate ownership by ByteDance Ltd., a company with Chinese subsidiaries whose employees support various ByteDance businesses, including TikTok. They claim that the Act is not a ban because it offers ByteDance a choice: divest TikTok’s U.S. business or be shut down.

But in reality, there is no choice. The “qualified divestiture” demanded by the Act to allow TikTok to continue operating in the United States is simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally. And certainly not on the 270-day timeline required by the Act.

The company has “repeatedly explained this to the U.S. Government, and sponsors of the Act were aware that divestment is not possible,” the lawsuit states:

There is no question: the Act will force a shutdown of TikTok by January 19, 2025, silencing the 170 million Americans who use the platform to communicate in ways that cannot be replicated elsewhere.

Of course, even if a “qualified divestiture” were feasible, the Act would still be an extraordinary and unconstitutional assertion of power. If upheld, it would allow the government to decide that a company may no longer own and publish the innovative and unique speech platform it created. If Congress can do this, it can circumvent the First Amendment by invoking national security and ordering the publisher of any individual newspaper or website to sell to avoid being shut down. And for TikTok, any such divestiture would disconnect Americans from the rest of the global community on a platform devoted to shared content — an outcome fundamentally at odds with the Constitution’s commitment to both free speech and individual liberty.

As of the time of publication, the Justice Department has not issued any statements regarding the lawsuit.

*For corrections please email [email protected]*