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TikTok Threatens to Sue After Trump Moved to Ban It

In a statement, TikTok said that Trump declaring the app a "national emergency" is a danger to free expression and open markets.
August 7, 2020, 12:37pm
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TikTok logo. Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP

TikTok, the short video-sharing app popular among Gen Z, has responded to United States President Donald Trump’s decision to declare it a “national emergency,” vowing to sue if moves to ban the app are finalized.

In his executive order on Thursday, August 6, Trump declared TikTok a “national emergency,” over accusations of ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The executive order states that it would be illegal for any company in the United States to do transactions with the app’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance in 45 days.

This further pressures ByteDance to sell TikTok, in order to remain accessible to the app’s millions of users in the U.S. So far, Microsoft has shown an interest in purchasing the app.

“TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users,” Trump wrote in his order. “This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

TikTok denied the allegations against it in a lengthy statement published just hours after Trump’s executive order was released.

“We are shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process,” TikTok said.

“This Executive Order risks undermining global businesses' trust in the United States' commitment to the rule of law, which has served as a magnet for investment and spurred decades of American economic growth,” it continued. “And it sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets.”

The company also vowed to take legal action against the Trump administration.

“We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly — if not by the Administration, then by the US courts.”

TikTok and ByteDance have repeatedly denied allegations of Chinese spying, saying that they operate independently from Beijing.

“We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request,” TikTok said in its statement.

Several countries have started investigating TikTok since it rose in popularity in the last couple of years. In November 2019, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute published a report accusing ByteDance of collaborating with public security bureaus in China, including ones in Xinjiang, to disseminate state propaganda. In June, amid rising tensions with China, India banned TikTok and other Chinese-linked apps over data privacy concerns. Other countries like Japan, Australia, Pakistan, and Indonesia, have also started discussing or have established limits for the app.

Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP