TikTok Says It Will Sue Trump Administration Over Executive Order Demanding It Be Sold in U.S.

Company says it has seen “lack of due process as the Administration paid no attention to facts and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses”

Last Updated: August 24, 2020 @ 5:31 AM

TikTok says it will file a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s administration over his executive order demanding ByteDance — TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company — sell or spin off its U.S. operations within 90 days.

“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 spokesperson Josh Gartner said in a statement to TheWrap Saturday. “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.”

The statement continued: “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.”

On Aug. 14, Trump issued an executive order telling ByteDance to sell the popular video app’s U.S. operations within 90 days, saying there is “credible evidence” TikTok “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.”

That executive order came a week after he signed a different executive order, effectively banning the app from being used in the U.S. by mid-September. The second order bought ByteDance a bit more time to work out a deal to divest its U.S. operations.

Trump said in his Aug. 14 order that ByteDance must submit a weekly report to The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States on its divestment efforts. He also said Bytedance, in order to complete its sale, must show it has “destroyed all data” tied to American users.

Bytedance has been working to quickly offload TikTok’s U.S. business in recent weeks, with Microsoft emerging as the frontrunner before Oracle reportedly entered talks to purchase the company.

Despite TikTok’s popularity, critics have grown increasingly concerned the app doubles as a data collection tool for China’s communist government. TikTok has denied ever sharing user data with Chinese authorities. But Stratechery’s Ben Thompson recently pointed out TikTok’s privacy policy explicitly says it “may share” user information “with a parent, subsidiary, or other affiliate of our corporate group,” which, based on how companies operate in China, means data can be sent to government authorities.

“It is important to note, this would be the case even if the privacy policy were not so honest. All Chinese Internet companies are compelled by the country’s National Intelligence Law to turn over any and all data that the government demands, and that power is not limited by China’s borders,” Thompson explained further. “Moreover, this requisition of data is not subject to warrants or courts, as is the case with U.S. government requests for data from Facebook or any other entity.”

Along these lines, President Trump has said the app will be jettisoned from the U.S. on Sept. 15, barring a sale to a U.S. firm, due to national security concerns.

One Reddit user recently reverse-engineered TikTok to show what the app collects from its users — highlighting information Bytedance could be compelled to share with China’s government, based on the country’s laws. The app collects a wide range of information from users, according to the independent review, including IP and MAC addresses, GPS location, and other apps that are installed on a user’s phone, among other data points.