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'Rule of law should not be discarded', TikTok gets set to sue against Trump crackdown

AFP
Published Aug 23, 2020, 7:06 pm IST
Updated Aug 23, 2020, 7:06 pm IST
Due process not followed as US government tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses, ByteDance said.
The lawsuit would argue that President Trump's far-reaching action is unconstitutional because it failed to give the company a chance to respond, NPR reported two weeks ago quoting a source. (Photo | AFP)
 The lawsuit would argue that President Trump's far-reaching action is unconstitutional because it failed to give the company a chance to respond, NPR reported two weeks ago quoting a source. (Photo | AFP)

New York: Video app TikTok said Saturday it will challenge in court a Trump administration crackdown on the popular Chinese-owned platform, which Washington accuses of being a national security threat.

As tensions soar between the world’s two biggest economies, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on August 6 giving Americans 45 days to stop doing business with TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance—effectively setting a deadline for a potential pressured sale of the app to a US company.

 

“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,” TikTok said in a statement.

“Even though we strongly disagree with the administration’s concerns, for nearly a year we have sought to engage in good faith to provide a constructive solution,” it said.

“What we encountered instead was a lack of due process as the administration paid no attention to facts and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.”

 

ByteDance said in a separate statement that the suit would be filed on Monday.

An NPR report two weeks ago had said that the lawsuit would be filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of California, where TikTok's American operations are based

NPR said that it had learned that the lawsuit would argue that President Trump's far-reaching action is unconstitutional because it failed to give the company a chance to respond. It also alleges that the administration's national security justification for the order is baseless, according to the source.

 

“It's based on pure speculation and conjecture,” the source was quoted as saying. “The order has no findings of fact, just reiterates rhetoric about China that has been kicking around.”

The White House declined to comment on the expected litigation but defended the president's executive order. “The Administration is committed to protecting the American people from all cyber related threats to critical infrastructure, public health and safety, and our economic and national security,” White House spokesman Judd Deere was quoted as saying by the NPR report.

 

TikTok’s kaleidoscopic feeds of short clips feature everything from dance routines and hair-dye tutorials to jokes about daily life and politics. It has been downloaded 175 million times in the US and more than a billion times around the world.

Trump claims TikTok could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.

The company has said it has never provided any US user data to the Chinese government, and Beijing has blasted Trump’s crackdown as political.

 

The US measures come ahead of November 3 elections in which Trump, behind his rival Joe Biden in the polls, is campaigning hard on an increasingly strident anti-Beijing message.

Microsoft and Oracle are possible suitors for TikTok’s US operations.

Reports have said Oracle—whose chairman Larry Ellison has raised millions in campaign funds for Trump—was weighing a bid for TikTok’s operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The Trump administration has also given ByteDance a 90-day deadline to divest in TikTok before the app is banned in the United States.

 

The measures move away from the long-promoted American ideal of a global, open internet and could invite other countries to follow suit, analysts told AFP previously.

“It’s really an attempt to fragment the internet and the global information society along US and Chinese lines,” Milton Mueller, a Georgia Tech professor and founder of the Internet Governance Project said previously.

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