TikTok challenges US law aimed at app ban, citing free speech concerns

TikTok has launched a lawsuit against a US law that wants to prohibit the popular video-sharing app unless it is sold from its Chinese parent firm. TikTok claims in its complaint that the statute violates the company’s and its 170 million American users’ free expression rights.

President Joe Biden signed the legislation into law last month, citing national security concerns. The regulation, which goes into force in January 2025, forbids app shops from distributing TikTok until its parent company, ByteDance, finds a buyer for the site. If negotiations continue, President Biden has the right to extend the deadline by 90 days.

TikTok claims that the sale requirement cannot be met within the term specified by the law, stating that it is “simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally.” The company claims that the regulation unfairly punishes TikTok and establishes a “two-tiered speech regime” with separate restrictions for different platforms.

The lawsuit also highlighted TikTok’s attempts to address US data security concerns, stating that the company has committed more than $2 billion in safeguards for US data. However, some claim that these efforts are insufficient, with some calling TikTok’s investments a “deceptive marketing effort.”

While the US government claims that the measure is required to address the national security vulnerabilities posed by TikTok’s Chinese ownership, civil liberties organisations are concerned about its impact on free speech.

Ashley Gorski of the American Civil Liberties Union claims that the regulation is an effective ban on TikTok and concerns whether it meets the legal criteria for such restrictions.

Meanwhile, Congressman John Moolenaar, a supporter of the measure, is certain that it will resist judicial challenges, emphasising the government’s determination that TikTok poses a “grave risk to national security.”

The case against TikTok is part of a larger pattern of US measures against Chinese technology companies. In a separate event, the Department of Commerce revoked Huawei’s export licences for some commodities, citing worries about the company’s ties to the Chinese military.

As tensions between the United States and China rise, the legal dispute over TikTok highlights the complicated interplay between national security objectives and free expression rights in the digital age.

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