Over the last few months, TikTok has become the talk of the town amidst fears it is secretly harvesting data from some 800 million users and leaking it to the Chinese Communist Party. Well… potentially leaking it to the Chinese Communist Party. As in, it might leak data to the Chinese Communist Party at some point in the future. Maybe.
The fears about the short-form video-sharing app popular among Gen Zers came to a head last Thursday. After growing concerns, company and political party-wide bans and a potential sale to Microsoft, Trump issued an Executive Order to ban TikTok completely within 45 days, making “any transaction” with the Chinese-owned company ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) illegal and punishable by a fine up to $300, 000 or even criminal prosecution.
The decision, which is controversial at best and may even violate human rights, has resulted in a lawsuit between TikTok and the Trump Administration, reported first by NPR.
The lawsuit, which could be held as soon as Tuesday, will take place in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, NPR heard from a source who was advised not to speak for the company.
Apparently, TikTok is suing the Trump Administration on the grounds that this ban is unconstitutional because it did not give the company time to respond and the justification for the ban is “based on pure speculation and conjecture,” and that it has “no findings of fact [and it] just reiterates rhetoric about China that has been kicking around”.
In a company blog post retaliating to the executive ban, the company stated: “We are shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process”. The company also argued that the Administration “paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses,” and the Executive Order “risks undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law”.
Ray Walsh, a privacy expert at ProPrivacy says that TikTok’s move to sue the Trump Administration shows that it won’t go down without a fight and that the US basing a ban on the grounds of national security seems like a “massive power play,” giving TikTok the moral high ground. However, he says, proving that there are no national security concerns involved with the platform “will be almost impossible to prove under the circumstances”.
Despite arguing that the government’s justifications are “baseless,” Ray Walsh believes that, “unfortunately, for TikTok this claim seems likely to fall short because ByteDance is a Chinese firm that must abide by Article 7 of the Chinese National Intelligence Law; meaning that it must share data with the Communist Party if it is asked to do so”.
It is not clear whether or not TikTok is continuing talks with Microsoft, but if the deal isn’t closed by September 20th, it might be the end for TikTok in the West.