TikTok Sues Trump in Challenge to Executive Order Ban

August 24, 2020 Updated: August 24, 2020

This article has been updated with the latest information.

TikTok filed a lawsuit at a California court on Aug. 24 against President Donald Trump’s executive order prohibiting transactions with the popular short video app and its Chinese parent ByteDance, confirming an earlier Reuters report.

The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles federal court names Trump, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross as defendants.

Reuters exclusively reported on Friday that TikTok would challenge Trump’s executive order as early as Monday.

TikTok called Trump’s Aug. 6 executive order for a TikTok ban a means to further his alleged “broader campaign of anti-China rhetoric” ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, where Trump is seeking a second term.

The app said it had tried to engage with the U.S administration for nearly a year, but faced “a lack of due process.”

“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 said in a statement.

Trump also issued an executive order on Aug. 14 that gave ByteDance 90 days to divest from the U.S. operations of TikTok. ByteDance has been making progress in talks with potential acquirers, including Microsoft Corp. and Oracle. Some of ByteDance’s U.S. investors could also join the winning bid.

While TikTok is best known for its anodyne videos of people dancing and going viral among teenagers, U.S. officials have expressed concerns that information on users could be passed on to the Chinese regime.

TikTok, which was acquired by Beijing-based ByteDance Technology Co. in 2017, is estimated to have tens of millions of active users in the United States.

TikTok’s legal challenge would not shield ByteDance from having to divest the app. This is because it does not pertain to the Aug. 14 order on the sale of TikTok, which is not subject to judicial review.

However, the move shows that ByteDance is seeking to deploy all the legal ammunition at its disposal as it tries to prevent the TikTok deal negotiations from turning into a fire sale.

The Trump administration has also issued an order that would prohibit transactions with Tencent Holding’s WeChat.

The State Department, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and Transportation Security Administration have already barred TikTok on government devices, and in December 2019, the U.S. Army blocked its soldiers from using the app. Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa, an Army spokeswoman, told Millitary.com that “it is considered a cyber threat.”

Trump has said he would support an effort by Microsoft to buy TikTok’s American operations if the U.S. government got a “substantial portion” of the proceeds, but has also said there are other interested potential buyers such as Oracle.

The White House referred a request for comment to the U.S. Department of Justice, which declined to comment.

By Radhika Anilkumar, Ken Li Yingzhi Yang, and Brenda Goh.

The Epoch Times contributed to this report.