ByteDance Battles US Law Forcing TikTok Divestment

TikTok owner ByteDance files lawsuit against US law forcing app’s sale | Social Media News

ByteDance, the Chinese technology company that owns popular video-sharing app TikTok, has filed a lawsuit against the United States government. This move comes in the wake of a law forcing ByteDance to divest from its US operations, which the company argues is “obviously unconstitutional”.

ByteDance’s Stand Against the Divestment Law

The lawsuit, filed in the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, is ByteDance’s response to the law signed by President Joe Biden on April 24. This law requires ByteDance to sell off its US operations within nine months. However, ByteDance maintains that such a divestment will not be feasible “not commercially, not technologically, not legally”.

Furthermore, ByteDance suggests it is being unfairly singled out by this legislation, infringing upon the First Amendment of the US Constitution that protects free speech. The company’s lawsuit states, “For the first time in history, Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single, named speech platform to a permanent, nationwide ban, and bars every American from participating in a unique online community with more than 1 billion people worldwide”.

Technical Challenges and National Security Concerns

One of the key points in ByteDance’s lawsuit is the technical complexity of transferring millions of lines of code and algorithms to prospective owners. This transfer would be necessary to keep TikTok operational, but is prohibited by the law. The company asserts that the Act will inevitably lead to the shutdown of TikTok by January 19, 2025, thereby affecting the 170 million American users of the platform.

However, this law stems from bipartisan concerns about TikTok’s implications for national security. Critics fear that ByteDance could potentially share user data with the Chinese government, raising privacy concerns. Therefore, the April law is deemed necessary to protect US users.

The History of TikTok in the US Government’s Crosshairs

TikTok has faced scrutiny from the US government for nearly four years, with tensions escalating between Washington and Beijing. For example, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order in 2020 to ban TikTok, citing national security concerns, but federal judges blocked this ban.

Furthermore, individual states like Montana have sought to restrict TikTok. Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill in April 2023 that would fine TikTok for operating within state lines. However, this law was also challenged in court.

ByteDance’s Prospects and the International Perspective

Many free-speech advocates predict a similar fate for the April federal law forcing ByteDance’s divestment. Jameel Jaffer, the executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, anticipates ByteDance will prevail in the lawsuit, stating, “The First Amendment means the government can’t restrict Americans’ access to ideas, information, or media from abroad without a very good reason for it — and no such reason exists here”.

In an international context, China has taken similar actions against US-based companies like Meta, citing national security concerns. Therefore, the ByteDance lawsuit is not just a legal battle, but a significant episode in the ongoing digital Cold War between the US and China.

In conclusion, the outcome of ByteDance’s lawsuit will not only determine the fate of TikTok in the US but will also set a precedent for future actions against foreign-owned digital platforms. In the middle of these legal battles and political tensions, the question remains: how can national security be balanced against free speech and the global nature of the digital world?