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TikTok and its employees sue Trump administration over ban in US – CNET

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TikTok is facing scrutiny because it’s owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance.


Angela Lang/CNET

TikTok and an employee are suing the Trump administration in two separate lawsuits over an executive order that would effectively ban the short-form video app in the US on Sept. 20. 

The company’s lawsuit (embedded below) was filed Monday in the US District Court for the Central District of California. TikTok said the Aug. 6 executive order issued by President Donald Trump didn’t follow due process or provide “evidence that TikTok was an actual threat.” The order also failed to justify its “punitive actions,” the company said in a blog post.

A separate lawsuit, filed later Monday in US District Court for Northern California by a TikTok employee, calls the order “sweepingly broad” and questions whether employee wages and salaries will be covered by a section of the order that bans transactions with the company.

“The 1,500 TikTok employees working in the US — as well as their families — need to know whether they will be paid next month,” reads the complaint from plaintiff Patrick Ryan.

TikTok, which has more than 100 million American users, argued in its lawsuit that it was deprived the opportunity to respond, and said the national security concerns surrounding the app are without merit.

“The executive order is not rooted in bona fide national security concerns,” reads the company’s complaint. “Independent national security and information security experts have criticized the political nature of this executive order, and expressed doubt as to whether its stated national security objective is genuine.”

Trump’s executive order bars any US transactions with TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance. The order states that the data TikTok collects “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information,” and could allow China to track the location of federal employees and contractors. Under the order, TikTok would be banned in the US unless another company acquires the app. 

The executive order followed India’s move in June to ban TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps. India cited national security concerns for the actions.

TikTok says it has never turned over US user data to the Chinese government, and wouldn’t do so even if it were asked. The company has also denied that it censors content critical of the Chinese government. Analysts for the CIA told the White House that it’s possible for Chinese intelligence officials to use TikTok to intercept data “to bore into smartphones” but there’s no evidence that has happened, The Times reported.

TikTok said in a blog post earlier this month that Trump’s 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.” The company also said “it sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets.”

Microsoft has expressed interest in buying TikTok’s service in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand by Sept. 15, before the executive order’s deadline.  

Twitter has also been in preliminary talks about acquiring TikTok, but is considered a “long-shot bidder,” The Wall Street Journal reported. Oracle and Google’s parent company Alphabet have also considered purchasing TikTok. Apple denied it was interested in acquiring the company.  

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

CNET’s Steven Musil contributed to this report.


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