May 15, 2024

TikTok Creators Sue U.S. Government, Claiming App Ban Violates Free Expresson

Eight TikTok creators have filed a lawsuit against the US government over their new law that would force the sale or ban of the video app, owned by Chinese ByteDanceLTD.

The Potential TikTok Ban So Far

Joe Biden recently signed into law a bill that requires TikTok’s Chinese owner to sell the social media app’s US operations or face a ban, after the Senate passed the legislation.

The bill gives TikTok’s Beijing-based parent, ByteDance, 270 days to sell the app’s US operations and if not, it will then face a nationwide ban through blocking of app stores and web hosts from distributing the platform.

The concerns surrounding the platform are due to the data from TikTok’s 170 million US users could be accessed by the Chinese state under national security laws.

TikTok has denied that the Chinese government has attempted to access US user data and stated it would reject any such request according to The Guardian.

ByteDance has said it doesn’t have any intention of trying to find a buyer for TikTok as the January deadline approaches.

Instead, they want the law declared unconstitutional, saying it violates the First Amendment and represents an illegal punishment without due process or a presidential finding that the app is a national security threat.

TikTok has argued the law will stifle free speech and hurt creators and small business owners who benefit economically from the platform.

TikTok Creators Fight Back

The creators, represented by Davis Wright Tremaine – a firm based in Seattle –  are arguing that the law violates their First Amendment rights in a 33-page complaint.

Their lawsuit echoes the arguments TikTok and ByteDance made last week in a separate legal challenge.

“Our clients rely on TikTok to express themselves, learn and find community,” Ambika Kumar, a lawyer for the creators, said according to Time Magazine.

“They hope to vindicate not only their First Amendment rights, but the rights of the other approximately 170 million Ameiricans who also use TikTok. The ban is a pernicious attack on free speech that is contrary to the nation’s founding principles.”

The creators include Topher Townsend, an Air Force veteran, artist, author and actor,  lifestyle creator Talia Cadet who highlights all things Black-owned and six others.

“As Americans we should be free to choose whatever app we want to use… especially when they haven’t proved or provided evidence to show the danger they’ve set out that is unique to TikTok,” Townsend said in a TikTok video.

They all told The Washington Post that TikTok is an essential outlet for speech and self-expression and that they rely on it to educate, advocate and connect with millions of people as well as to make a living.

A Justice Department spokesperson said the government looks forward to defending the law in court.

“This legislation addresses critical national security concerns in a manner that is consistent with the First Amendment and other constitutional limitations,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

TikTok is covering the creators’ attorney fees.

Image credit: Rory Doyle for The Washington Post

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.