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TikTok vows to fight White House ban with ‘all remedies available’

The company said it was "shocked" by the executive order.
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
August 7, 2020
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SAN ANSELMO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 01: In this photo illustration, the Tik Tok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on November 01, 2019 in San Anselmo, California. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has started a national security investigation of social media app TikTok after Beijing ByteDance Technology Co acquired U.S. social media app Musical.ly for $1 billion. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

TikTok has issued a statement on the White House’s plan to ban its popular app, saying it was “shocked” by the executive order and that it will respond in court, if necessary. The order, issued yesterday by President Trump, means that TikTok could disappear in the US in 45 days if nothing changes.

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

The justification for the ban given by the White House was a “national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and services supply chain.” The administration is also concerned that TikTok “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories.”

We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request. In fact, we make our moderation guidelines and algorithm source code available in our Transparency Center, which is a level of accountability no peer company has committed to. We even expressed our willingness to pursue a full sale of the US business to an American company. 

However, TikTok countered that its attempts to address those concerns were stymied by the government. “What we encountered instead was that the Administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses,” it wrote. The latter part likely refers to Trump’s comments about Microsoft’s potential purchase of TikTok and that a chunk of the proceeds should go to the US treasury.

TikTok gave what could be a preview of its legal case, saying that the order relies on unnamed “reports” with no specific citations. It also noted that the administration said the app “may be” used for misinformation with no proof to back that up.

The company restated that “TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request.” It added that it’s one of the few social media companies to make its moderation guidelines and algorithm source code available to the public, and noted that it even offered to sell its US business to an American company.

TikTok’s response was widely expected, as is a possible protracted court fight. The White House has also threatened to ban the Chinese app WeChat, which is run by TenCent. However, it said that it wouldn’t take action against other Tencent properties, most notably gaming companies and games like the popular battle royale title PUBG.

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