TikTok Sues the United States Government

WASHINGTONThe parent company of TikTok filed suit Tuesday against the federal government to block a potential ban if the Chinese owners don't divest.

In the filing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, counsel for TikTok and the ownership group, Beijing-headquartered ByteDance, named Attorney General Merrick Garland as the United States government's representative.

The lawsuit alleges that the administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, is infringing on the free speech rights of the over 170 million American users of TikTok. 

The petition to the court reads, “Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single, named speech platform to a permanent, nationwide ban and bars every American from participating in a unique online community with more than 1 billion people worldwide.” 

Biden signed a national security funding measure that advanced through both chambers of Congress. The measure would require ByteDance to entirely divest its stake in TikTok or risk the popular app being banned. Members of Congress from both the Republican and Democratic parties adopted the legislation on disputed claims that the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese army could use TikTok as a mass surveillance tool to spy on U.S.-based users. Many states and federal agencies have banned TikTok on official mobile devices. 

Biden and proponents of the divest-or-ban law said that they're not trying to censor TikTok users. Divestment is basically a requirement to give control of a popular app to a large technology company from the United States. Companies like Microsoft or Oracle are rumored to be interested in purchasing TikTok, which is valued at tens of billions of dollars. 

TikTok is a popular safe-for-work marketing tool for many producers, studios and performers in the adult entertainment industry. Potentially losing TikTok if a ban comes to fruition could significantly limit their options. Right now, X (formerly Twitter) is really the only major social media platform that permits sexually explicit content.

Most studios and adult platforms circulate NSFW marketing materials on X with a lower risk of being banned. AVN has reported on how social media platforms, even those popular with adult content creators, are inherently not built for sexual expression

Civil society organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), condemned the ban on TikTok.

The ACLU filed an amicus brief in support of TikTok, characterizing any divest-or-ban law as unconstitutional.

The case it filed the amicus brief in was a separate federal lawsuit against Montana when the state tried to ban the use of the application in the entire state.