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Bulletins

TikTok sues the Trump administration

TikTok is suing the Trump administration for violating due process, misusing the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and rushing its national security investigation for political reasons.

Trump's Twitter account on a phone in front of the TikTok logo

TikTok is suing the Trump administration for violating due process, misusing the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and rushing its national security investigation for political reasons.

Image: Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images

TikTok on Monday sued the U.S. government over President Trump's recent executive order threatening to ban the social media platform.


TikTok is suing the Trump administration for violating due process, misusing the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and rushing its national security investigation for political reasons. The company says it will move for a preliminary injunction on the TikTok ban by Sept. 20.

"To be clear, we far prefer constructive dialogue over litigation," the company wrote in a blog post announcing the lawsuit. "But with the executive order threatening to bring a ban on our U.S. operations — eliminating the creation of 10,000 American jobs and irreparably harming the millions of Americans who turn to this app for entertainment, connection and legitimate livelihoods that are vital especially during the pandemic — we simply have no choice."

The company's argument is a little wonky. But here's the tl;dr: TikTok told a federal court in California that the Trump administration violated the law and the constitution when it announced an imminent ban on one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.

Here are five key points from the lawsuit:

    1. "The order is ultra vires because it is not based on a bona fide national emergency and authorizes the prohibition of activities that have not been found to pose 'an unusual and extraordinary threat.'" TikTok thinks the government doesn't really have the authority to ban the app because there's scant public evidence to prove that it meets the threshold under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the law that Trump used to justify the ban.
    2. "CFIUS [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] never articulated any reason why TikTok's security measures were inadequate to address any national security concerns, and effectively terminated formal communications with plaintiffs well before the conclusion of the initial statutory review period." Here, TikTok is alleging that something was fishy with the national security review that preceded the executive. TikTok says CFIUS, the body that had been investigating TikTok for the past year, did not address the fact that TikTok set up extensive safeguards around U.S. user data and totally cut off communication before they were supposed to.
    3. "On its face, the executive order fails to identify any unusual and extraordinary threat posed by TikTok — or any actual national security threat at all." TikTok says the executive order mostly relies on hearsay and "unsubstantiated" claims to build the case against TikTok under the IEEPA. But TikTok is not convinced.
    4. "The president's actions clearly reflect a political decision to campaign on an anti-China platform." TikTok says this is more of a campaign ploy than anything, which undermines the legitimacy of the whole order.
    5. "Because the executive order is broader than necessary to serve any governmental interest, the order violates TikTok Inc.'s First Amendment rights." Some scholars say TikTok's strongest argument might lie in the First Amendment, as any ban would curtail the speech of millions of Americans. The company's trying its hand at that case.
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