TikTok is suing the US government to stop its app being banned

The company claims that the law is unconstitutional.

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TikTok is officially challenging the law that could lead to a ban of the app in the United States. The company, which has long claimed that efforts to force a sale or ban of its app are unconstitutional, announced a lawsuit against the federal government.

In the lawsuit, TikTok claims that a divestiture of its business from ByteDance is “simply not possible,” and that the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” violates the First Amendment. “They claim that the Act is not a ban because it offers ByteDance a choice: divest TikTok’s U.S. business or be shut down,” the suit states. “But in reality, there is no choice. The ‘qualified divestiture’ demanded by the Act to allow TikTok to continue operating in the United States is simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally.”

The filing of the lawsuit is the first beat in what’s expected to be a lengthy legal battle over the law, which was passed last month. Under the law, TikTok has up to a year to separate itself from Chinese parent company ByteDance or face a ban in US app stores. However, legal challenges from TikTok could significantly delay that process.

Free speech and digital rights groups have also opposed the law, saying that it could set a precedent for further bans. In its lawsuit, TikTok made a similar argument, and said that the alleged national security risks posed by its app are unproven. “If Congress can do this, it can circumvent the First Amendment by invoking national security and ordering the publisher of any individual newspaper or website to sell to avoid being shut down,” it says. “The Act does not articulate any threat posed by TikTok … Even the statements by individual Members of Congress and a congressional committee report merely indicate concern about the hypothetical possibility that TikTok could be misused in the future, without citing specific evidence.”

The filing also references Project Texas, the company’s multibillion-dollar investment into separating US user data and other security measures, as the result of negotiations with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Those negotiations eventually stalled and CFIUS told the company last year it wanted TikTok to divest from ByteDance after all.

TikTok says that, as part of those talks, it had already agreed to a “shut-down option,” which would “give the government the authority to suspend TikTok in the United States” if the company violated the terms of its agreement. Instead, TikTok says, Congress “tossed this tailored agreement aside” because it was “politically expedient."