TikTok responded to Donald Trump’s executive order issued Thursday night — to effectively ban the app if its parent company cannot complete a sale within 45 days — saying it was “shocked” and that TikTok would launch a legal fight against the president’s move.
TikTok, owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance, called Trump’s order a “dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets.”
“We are shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process,” TikTok said in a statement released Friday. “For nearly a year, we have sought to engage with the U.S. government in good faith to provide a constructive solution to the concerns that have been expressed. 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.”
Spurred by the U.S. government’s threats, TikTok, which claims 100 million Americans use its short-form video app, is negotiating a sale to Microsoft, which reportedly is considering a deal to acquire all of TikTok’s operations.
Trump invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) in the order against TikTok, and he issued an identical executive order against Tencent-owned WeChat. The separate orders, citing national security concerns, prevent any transactions with WeChat or TikTok by any party or involving any property subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
TikTok said it “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 U.S. courts.”
Last week, the ACLU criticized Trump’s threat to ban TikTok as harmful to free expression and questioned the legality of such an action.
“Banning an app that millions of Americans use to communicate with each other is a danger to free expression and is technologically impractical,” Jennifer Granick, the ACLU’s surveillance and cybersecurity counsel, said in a statement Aug. 1. “With any Internet platform, we should be concerned about the risk that sensitive private data will be funneled to abusive governments, including our own. But shutting one platform down, even if it were legally possible to do so, harms freedom of speech online and does nothing to resolve the broader problem of unjustified government surveillance.”
TikTok argued that Trump cited no evidence for why, according to the administration, the app “continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
“The text of the [Trump order] makes it plain that there has been a reliance on unnamed ‘reports’ with no citations, fears that the app ‘may be’ used for misinformation campaigns with no substantiation of such fears, and concerns about the collection of data that is industry standard for thousands of mobile apps around the world,” TikTok said in its statement Friday.
TikTok reiterated that it has “never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request.” The company said it publishes its moderation guidelines and algorithm source code, “which is a level of accountability no peer company has committed to.” TikTok also says it does not operate any servers in China proper although its app shares code with Douyin, ByteDance’s sister video app for the Chinese market.
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