TikTok confirmed Saturday, August 22, 2020, that it will file a lawsuit against the Trump administration over an executive order demanding parent company ByteDance divest its TikTok operations in the US. It’s the first time the company has confirmed it will pursue legal action, a move that has been rumored for several weeks. Reports began surfacing Friday that a lawsuit was likely imminent.
“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,” TikTok spokesman Josh Gartner said in a statement to The Verge. “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.”
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.”
President Trump signed an executive order on August 6th blocking all transactions with ByteDance in an effort to “address the national emergency with respect to the information and communication technology supply chain.” The order invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, an unusual move that casts TikTok’s continued operation within the US as a national emergency.
The order was intended to take effect within 45 days. On August 14th, the president signed another executive order, this time giving ByteDance 90 days to sell or spin-off TikTok in the US.
The video-sharing platform has skyrocketed in popularity over the past year; TikTok said in April it hit 2 billion downloads globally, with 315 million downloads in the first quarter of 2020 alone.
Microsoft has been in talks to acquire TikTok — though co-founder Bill Gates has called the potential deal a “poisoned chalice” — and reports suggested Twitter and Oracle also were in separate talks with TikTok. Microsoft said it expected to complete the discussions “no later than September 15th, 2020.”
“There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance … might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” Trump wrote in the order, which references national security concerns.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the possibility of a TikTok ban as early as July 7th. Pompeo also has compared TikTok to Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese companies that have been designated as threats to US national security.
“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” an August 2nd blog post from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reads.
The Verge: TikTok confirms it will sue the Trump administration