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TikTok files lawsuit over bipartisan divestiture law

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Brett Rowland

(The Center Square) – TikTok filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of a new law that requires a sale or ban of the popular app, setting up a legal battle over free speech and national security.

Last month, Congress passed and President Joe Biden enacted a law that requires China's ByteDance to sell its ownership in TikTok or the app will be banned in the U.S. Some experts have said China could use the app's monitoring capabilities against Americans.

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Tuesday, TikTok and ByteDance filed a lawsuit that asks for a court order to stop enforcement of the bipartisan law. The lawsuit alleges the law is unconstitutional.

"Congress has taken the unprecedented step of expressly singling out and banning TikTok: a vibrant online forum for protected speech and expression used by 170 million Americans to create, share, and view videos over the Internet," company lawyers wrote in the lawsuit. "For the first time in history, 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."

The company further said the law presents the company with a false choice because it can't sell in the 270-day schedule allowed in the law.

The lawsuit says, "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. And certainly not on the 270-day timeline required by the Act. Petitioners have repeatedly explained this to the U.S. government, and sponsors of the Act were aware that divestment is not possible. There is no question: the Act will force a shutdown of TikTok by January 19, 2025, silencing the 170 million Americans who use the platform to communicate in ways that cannot be replicated elsewhere."

Owned by China-based ByteDance, TikTok is an online social media platform that has gained global popularity by posting short, user-submitted videos. The use and acceptance of TikTok has been debated in the U.S. over concerns of misinformation, data privacy violations, addiction by younger users, and its ability to spur reckless, sometimes fatal challenges.

During a March 23, 2023, congressional hearing, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified that the platform was not manipulated by any government and that it does not alter content at the request of Chinese authorities.

Some states and the federal government have prohibited the use of the TikTok by government employees.