TikTok vows legal battle as the US presses for app’s sale or ban


A man holding a smartphone displaying the logo of Chinese social media platform Tiktok in an office in Paris. TikTok is at risk of losing its most lucrative market after years of struggling to assure the US government that its popular social media app isn’t a threat to national security. — AFP

TikTok told employees it will fight in the courts if a US bill forcing a ban or divestiture of the Chinese-owned app is signed into law, as one of the world’s most valuable technology businesses tries to fend off an existential crisis in its most important market.

"This is an unprecedented deal worked out between the Republican Speaker and President Biden,” Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, said in a memo to TikTok’s US staff. "At the stage that the bill is signed, we will move to the courts for a legal challenge.”

TikTok is at risk of losing its most lucrative market after years of struggling to assure the US government that its popular social media app isn’t a threat to national security. The US House of Representatives on Saturday put legislation requiring TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance Ltd, to divest its ownership stake in the app on a fast track to become law, tying it to a crucial aid package for Ukraine and Israel. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill in the coming days. US President Joe Biden has said he will sign the legislation promptly.

Beckerman said the divest-or-ban law is "a clear violation” of the First Amendment rights of TikTok’s 170 million American users and would have "devastating consequences” for the seven million small businesses on the short-video platform. "We’ll continue to fight,” the executive said, in the memo reviewed by Bloomberg News. "This is the beginning, not the end of this long process.”

A TikTok spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the memo, which was previously reported by the Information.

TikTok chief executive officer Shou Chew has led a broad lobbying effort to persuade lawmakers that the company is not a security risk.

ByteDance intends to fight the US ban in court and exhaust all legal actions before it considers any kind of divestiture, people familiar with the matter have said. Beijing’s government, in the meanwhile, will have to greenlight any TikTok deal on tech-export ground, and it has reiterated it opposes a forced sale. – Bloomberg

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