Jessica Goodfellow
Aug 24, 2020

TikTok to sue US government: What do social-media users think?

Commentators have pointed out that TikTok's lawsuit against a potential ban in the US jars with China's closed internet ecosystem; while Chinese netizens believe TikTok has been too slow to react.

Credit: Unsplash
Credit: Unsplash

TikTok is set to launch legal action against the US government over President Trump's move to ban the app from operating in the country and force it to divest its US assets and data.

The popular video app, owned by China's ByteDance, is reportedly planning to file the lawsuit this week. 

It comes weeks after the US president issued two executive orders against TikTok, announcing the government would ban transactions with the app within 45 days (till mid-September), and then later giving parent ByteDance 90 days (mid-November) to sell or spin off its US business.

In the order, Trump said there was "credible evidence" that ByteDance "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States".

ByteDance's TikTok, which has continuously denied it shares international user data with Beijing and maintains it respects user privacy, is now retaliating with legal action.

A TikTok spokesperson told Campaign Asia-Pacific it had tried to engage with the Trump's administration for nearly a year but had encountered a "lack of due process" and an administration that paid "no attention to facts".

"To ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and users are treated fairly, we have no choice but to challenge the executive order through the judicial system," the company spokesperson said.

TikTok says it stores user data in servers in Singapore and the US—meaning the data would technically not fall under Chinese law. This reportedly informed its decision to exit TikTok from Hong Kong.

The popular short video-sharing app has 80 million active US users.

Social-media users have alluded to the fact that the retaliation against Trump's proposed ban jars with China's own approach to internet regulation, with most US internet companies—including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat—are blocked from operating in China.

Meanwhile, a common theme among Chinese netizens is that TikTok waited too long to pursue public action against the US.

A post that has been circulated across several Weibo accounts, in some cases gaining more than 2000 likes, reads (translated from Mandarin): "If you fight back in the beginning, you will have the support. If you surrender , people won't like you. Now you realize your surrender paid back with more severe restrictions, you fight back as you have nowhere to go. How many people do you think will support you?"

Another popular opinion among Chinese social media users is that Facebook is to blame for the US government's resistance to TikTok. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is said to have stoked Washington's fears about the app during a visit last year.

One post that has nearly 1,000 likes reads: "Facebook can't have China, so they have nothing to fear now."

TikTok's move follows a separate lawsuit filed by a group of Chinese-Americans on Friday (August 21) against a similar ban on Tencent's social network WeChat.

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