Staff Reporters
May 8, 2024

TikTok sues the US government to prevent potential ban

TikTok argues that its First Amendment rights will be infringed upon should the ban be upheld.

TikTok sues the US government to prevent potential ban

TikTok has filed a federal lawsuit against the US government, challenging a recent law that mandates the sale of the app or the risk of a complete ban.

This lawsuit marks a significant showdown between national security concerns and the principles of free speech, rooted in the age of global information warfare.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal appeals court in Washington DC, seeks to prevent the enforcement of a bipartisan law signed by president Joe Biden. The law would ban TikTok unless its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, divests its US operations by mid-January next year.

ByteDance has publicly declared it cannot and will not meet this divestiture deadline, thus viewing litigation as its primary recourse to continue operating in the US market. The crux of TikTok's legal argument is that the law infringes on the First Amendment rights of the company and its approximately 170 million US users by potentially shutting down the platform.

The lawsuit also claims that the ban acts as an unconstitutional legislative punishment, denying TikTok equal protection under the law and constituting an unlawful taking of private property.

Since its inception in the US in 2018, TikTok has quickly risen to become a central entertainment platform, a significant source of news, a cultural influencer, and a hub for activism. Pew Research Center data reveals that more than half of US adults ages 18 to 29 are TikTok users, with about 40% regularly sourcing news from the app—double that of 2020.

Government officials and legislators have expressed increasing concern over TikTok’s rapid growth and potential use by foreign adversaries to spy on Americans and manipulate public opinion through its algorithms. In response, TikTok claims to have implemented robust measures to safeguard user data and counter any undue influence by the Chinese government.

Despite long-standing US restrictions on foreign ownership in sectors like radio and television broadcasting, Congress has never before enacted such drastic measures against an internet platform utilised by millions.

TikTok continues normal operations, maintaining content uploads by high-profile users and advising advertisers to remain calm, underscored by assurances given during a recent media conference in New York.

Financially, TikTok's US ad sales are projected to increase by 31% this year, reaching $8.7 billion. The company is heavily investing in a nascent shopping feature that could one day rival Amazon, allowing direct buying and selling on the platform.

However, what TikTok’s US operations could fetch on the market remains uncertain, with suggestions of around $20 billion being considered as starting bids.

As the legal proceedings unfold, previous court decisions offer a mixed precedent. While some federal and state restrictions on TikTok have been overturned, particularly on First Amendment grounds, the issues raised by this new law remain unresolved. This has led to legislative adjustments to solidify the law’s position against potential spying threats rather than as a punitive measure against TikTok.

Notably, TikTok is already prohibited on federal government smartphones, and many states have extended similar bans to state government devices.

As the court considers the arguments, the outcome will likely hinge on whether the national security concerns presented by the government are compelling enough to justify the severe implications for free speech posed by the shutdown of such a popular communications platform.

The broader implications of this case extend beyond TikTok alone, affecting digital content creators, advertisers, and the digital marketing landscape. If TikTok is compelled to exit the US market, it could leave a significant void that competitors like Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube are poised to fill.

Campaign Asia

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