Technology

TikTok sues Trump over threatened U.S. ban, saying it had "no choice"

In a blog post, the platform said it strongly disagreed with the White House's position that the company was a security threat

TikTok logo is displayed on the smartphone while standing on the U.S. flag in this illustration picture taken, November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
  • TikTok and its parent ByteDance sued Trump, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross;
  • TikTok’s assets in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand could be worth $25 billion to $30 billion.

Saying it had “no choice,” TikTok sued U.S. President Donald Trump over his executive order banning transactions in the United States with the popular short-form video-sharing app.

In a blog post, TikTok said it strongly disagreed with the White House’s position that the company was a national security threat, saying it had “taken extraordinary measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok’s U.S. user data.”

READ ALSO: How TikTok went from a global sensation to Trump’s target

It also said the administration has ignored its “extensive efforts” to address its concerns, and accused Trump of politicizing the dispute by calling for a ban on TikTok in an executive order.

We do not take suing the government lightly. But with the Executive Order threatening to bring a ban on our U.S. operations, we simply have no choice.

TikTok statement

They also called Trump’s call in his Aug. 6 executive order for a TikTok ban a means to further his alleged “broader campaign of anti-China rhetoric” ahead of the November 3 U.S. presidential election, where Trump is seeking a second term.

TikTok and its parent ByteDance sued Trump, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in the federal court in Los Angeles, court records show. A copy of the complaint was not immediately available.

The White House referred a request for comment to the U.S. Department of Justice, which had no immediately response.

Amid growing distrust between Washington and Beijing, Trump has for weeks complained that TikTok was a national security threat and might share information about users with the Chinese government.

His August 6 executive order called for banning transactions with the app after 45 days. Trump issued a separate executive order on August 14 giving ByteDance 90 days to divest TikTok’s U.S. operations and any data TikTok had gathered in the United States.

ByteDance controls TikTok since 2017

ByteDance had acquired Shanghai-based video app Musical.ly in a $1 billion transaction in 2017, and relaunched it as TikTok the following year.

In its blog post, TikTok said the Trump administration violated its constitutional right to due process by banning the company without notice.

It accused Trump of misusing the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which lets the president regulate international commerce during a national emergency.

READ ALSO: Microsoft says Apple’s move against Fortnite creator would hurt its games

Trump had in May 2019 invoked that law to stop alleged efforts by foreign telecommunications companies to conduct economic and industrial espionage against the United States.

But TikTok said the executive order was not supported by the emergency Trump declared a year earlier, and that the company did not provide the types of technology and services contemplated at that time.

It also said the executive order was not rooted in genuine national security concerns, adding: “We believe the Administration’s decisions were heavily politicized, and industry experts have said the same.”

ByteDance has been in talks to sell TikTok’s North American, Australian and New Zealand operations to companies including Microsoft and Oracle. Those assets could be worth $25 billion to $30 billion, people familiar with the matter have said.

READ ALSO: Twitter also expresses interest in buying TikTok’s U.S. operations

Before buying TikTok, ByteDance had not sought advance approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which reviews acquisitions for potential national security risks.

CFIUS later opened an investigation, and according to TikTok “repeatedly refused” to engage with ByteDance before saying it had found national security risks associated with the purchase.