TikTok video creators file suit seeking to avoid ban in US

A group of TikTok video creators have filed suit in U.S. federal court seeking to block a law signed by President Joe Biden.

TikTok customers on smartphone
@Freepik

TikTok creators said the law has had a profound effect on American life, Reuters news report said. TikTok has not revealed its revenue from the US.

United States wants China-based ByteDance to divest the short video app used by 170 million Americans or ban it. ByteDance is owned by several investors from China and United States. US fears that China is using TikTok data to track Americans. US never produced proof to say that TikTok is posing security challenges.

The TikTok users suing include a Texas Marine Corps veteran who sells his ranch products, a Tennessee woman selling cookies and discussing parenting, a North Dakota college coach who makes sports commentary videos, a Mississippi hip hop artist who shares Biblical quizzes and a recent college graduate in North Carolina who advocates for the rights of sexual-assault survivors.

“Although they come from different places, professions, walks of life, and political persuasions, they are united in their view that TikTok provides them a unique and irreplaceable means to express themselves and form community,” said the lawsuit.

Davis Wright Tremaine, a law firm representing the creators, said it filed the case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

A Justice Department spokesperson said the TikTok law “addresses critical national security concerns in a manner that is consistent with the First Amendment and other constitutional limitations. We look forward to defending the legislation in court.”

The suit, which seeks injunctive relief, says the law threatens free speech and “promises to shutter a discrete medium of communication that has become part of American life.”

Last week, TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance filed a similar lawsuit, arguing that the law violates the U.S. Constitution on a number of grounds including running afoul of First Amendment free speech protections.

TikTok creators filed a similar suit in 2020 to block a prior attempt to block the app under then President Donald Trump, and also sued last year in Montana asking a court to block a state ban. In both instances, courts blocked the bans. Donald Trump has since reversed course and criticized efforts to ban TikTok but has not joined the app.

The law, signed by Joe Biden on April 24, gives ByteDance until Jan. 19 to sell TikTok or face a ban. The White House has said it wants to see Chinese-based ownership ended on national security grounds but not a ban on TikTok. ByteDance earlier said it will not sell TikTok.

The law prohibits app stores like Apple and Google, from offering TikTok and bars internet hosting services from supporting TikTok unless ByteDance divests TikTok.

The creators’ suit said “because TikTok currently has approximately 170 million users in the United States, the fine for continuing to enable access to TikTok would be roughly $850 billion.”

The suit says to the extent the government may claim the law is needed to protect Americans’ data, “it has tried that strategy before and lost.” The suit says “the concerns are speculative, and even if they were not, they could be addressed with legislation much more narrowly tailored to any purported concern.”

The creators’ suit notes Biden’s campaign uses TikTok, quoting his campaign’s deputy manager as saying it “would be silly to write off any place where people are getting information about the president.”

In April, Apple said China had ordered it to remove Meta Platform’s WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China over Chinese national security concerns.