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TikTok sues to block new US law banning app if it doesn’t sell • South Dakota Searchlight

TikTok and its Chinese parent company on Tuesday challenged a recently passed federal law that bans the short video platform from the United States if it is not sold to a non-Chinese owner.

TikTok Inc., the U.S. company that operates the popular social media service, and ByteDance, its parent company founded by Chinese entrepreneurs, have filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit over a law requiring ByteDance to close its subsidiary or are facing a ban from US app stores.

The law violates the First Amendment right to free speech, the companies wrote. The service is a free expression platform used by 170 million Americans every month. While the government can dictate broadcast licenses that air over the public airwaves, it has no such authority over other platforms, including newspapers and websites, they said.

“Congress has created a law that restricts vast amounts of protected speech,” the companies wrote. “The government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, dictate ownership of newspapers, websites, online platforms, and other privately created forums for speech.”

Congress passed the law last month and President Joe Biden signed it into law. Many lawmakers argued that TikTok was a tool of the Chinese Communist Party.

Sales not feasible, says TikTok

The legal alternative for TikTok to circumvent a US ban and ByteDance to sell the platform is unworkable, the companies said.

The algorithm at the heart of TikTok’s product, as well as the platform itself, is powered by millions of lines of code developed by thousands of engineers over the years, the companies said. Transferring that design to new owners who do not have the years of expertise that TikTok’s current staff has would be impossible within the nine-month period set by law.

The Chinese government would also likely not allow a divestiture of the algorithm. China, like the United States, can regulate what technology can be exported, they said, and would likely reject a deal to allow foreign ownership of TikTok.

TikTok as a platform is integrated globally, so even if it were possible to find a new owner and transfer ownership of the product, it would lose much of the appeal – and associated market value – of connecting with users around the world. wrote.

“The divestiture of the American activities of TikTok Inc. and completely disconnecting it from the globally integrated platform of which it is part is not commercially, technologically or legally feasible,” they said. “The law will therefore have the effect of closing TikTok in the United States.”

The companies asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional, bar Attorney General Merrick Garland from enforcing the law and grant “any further relief that may be appropriate.”

National security concerns

Congress included the TikTok bill in a package of high-profile spending items, including military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. President Joe Biden signed the package into law on April 24.

Several China hawks in Congress have expressed concern that the Chinese government and its ruling Communist Party could force ByteDance to hand over data from TikTok users’ devices.

They have also expressed concerns that the Chinese Communist Party could manipulate content on the platform.

Senator Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, said last week that the “overwhelming” share of pro-Palestinian content on TikTok compared to other platforms was a reason for support for a ban among lawmakers.

In their lawsuit, TikTok and ByteDance said the government provided no evidence to support concerns about data privacy or content manipulation, and instead relied on hypothetical risks.

“These speculative concerns fall far short of what is necessary when First Amendment rights are at stake,” they said.

Rep. John Moolenaar, a Michigan Republican who chairs the U.S. House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, said in a written statement on the committee’s X account on Tuesday that he was “confident that our legislation would be upheld .”

“Congress and the executive branch have concluded, based on both publicly available and classified information, that TikTok poses a serious risk to national security and the American people,” Moolenaar said. “It is telling that TikTok would rather spend its time, money and effort fighting in court than solving the problem by breaking up with the Chinese Communist Party.”

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