President Trump has maintained a tumultuous relationship with social media platform TikTok this year. So far, users on the platform have trolled the president by sabotaging his rallies and campaign app. Then in August, Trump announced plans to ban the app if it doesn’t divest from Chinese ownership. Now, TikTok is hitting back as it sues Trump for an order that they say denied them due process.
TikTok: A Matter Of National Security?
Tensions between TikTok and Trump came to a head on August 6, when the president signed an executive order targeting the platform. The order cited potential national security threats from the site’s Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance. It gave TikTok 45 days to sell to an American company, after which transactions with ByteDance would be prohibited.
The order prompted negotiations between TikTok and Microsoft to sell the app to the American computer company. However, on August 24, the platform announced that it would be challenging the president’s executive order in court.
“The executive order issued by the administration on August 6, 2020 has the potential to strip the rights of [the TikTok] community without any evidence to justify such an extreme action, and without due process,” a company blog post reads. “We strongly disagree with the administration’s position that TikTok is a national security threat and we have articulated these objections previously.”
The statement goes on to allege that the Trump administration ignored TikTok’s responses to national security concerns, denying them the chance to prove their innocence. It says this included “a nearly year-long effort we made in good faith to provide the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) the voluminous information requested.” The statement claims that this information “was ignored” when provided to the committee.
The legal complaint also alleges that the president’s order was politically motivated.
“The executive order is not rooted in bona fide national security concerns,” the complaint said. “Independent national security and information security experts have criticized the political nature of this executive order, and expressed doubt as to whether its stated security objective is genuine[.]”
A Stalling Tactic?
Some legal experts have doubts that the complaint will have any effect against Trump’s order. National security law professor Robert Chesney told CNN that TikTik’s due process argument is unlikely to succeed. However, he said, the suit could succeed in delaying the ban until a less TikTok-averse president enters the White House.
“Getting the litigation delayed long enough so Joe Biden wins [the election] could be their whole game,” said Chesney.
If that is the case, however, the University of Texas-Austin professor said they may want to re-examine their strategy. “I think it’s unlikely the delay strategy achieves anything,” he said. “I don’t think Joe Biden will retract the executive order. They will be plenty hawkish on China.”
If the complaint fails, TikTok will have until September 20 to sell to an American company. Reuters reports that, in addition to Microsoft, the app has been in talks with software company Oracle as a potential buyer.