Sep 18, 2020 - Technology

TikTok calls for industry support as it promises to challenge ban

Illustration of a finger about to delete the TikTok app
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

TikTok received an unlikely vote of public support from its rival Instagram Friday, in response to the Commerce Department's latest order barring downloads of the app beginning Sunday. Meanwhile, the Chinese-owned video platform also said it would challenge the Trump administration's ban order as a violation of due process.

Why it matters: Major internet platform companies do not like to see different rules written for international apps in different countries, and many in the industry are beginning to view the campaign against TikTok as a dangerous precedent.

Driving the news: Adam Mosseri, the head of Facebook-owned Instagram, tweeted that a US TikTok ban "would be quite bad for Instagram, Facebook, and the internet more broadly."

In a tweet responding to Mosseri, TikTok's interim CEO Vanessa Pappas invited Facebook and Instagram "to publicly join our challenge and support our litigation."

  • "This is a moment to put aside our competition and focus on core principles like freedom of expression and due process of law," she said.
  • TikTok is a major competitor to Instagram and Facebook, and Facebook recently debuted Reels, a near-replica of TikTok for Instagram. Facebook has warned about the rise of TikTok in its discussions about competition issues with regulators.

Be smart: TikTok is not a part of the internet app lobbying group, the Internet Association, where it could draw larger support from its rivals. But its Head of Policy, Michael Beckerman, is the former head of the Internet Association, and has strong relationships with its peers' lobbyists.

TikTok plans to continue to challenge President Donald Trump's executive order and disagrees with the Commerce Department's Friday decision to block new app downloads as of Sunday and ban the use of TikTok in the U.S. after November 12, the company said in a statement.

"In our proposal to the US Administration, we’ve already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and US government oversight of US data security.
Further, an American technology provider would be responsible for maintaining and operating the TikTok network in the US, which would include all services and data serving US consumers.
We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the U.S. of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods.”
— TikTok statement

Between the lines: That "American technology provider," Oracle, continues to wait for its proposal to take over U.S. TikTok operations and provide cloud services to be approved by the government. President Trump has said he'll weigh in soon but has delayed doing so several times already.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Dan Primack: Don't lose sight of how abnormal this all is. A company with hundreds of U.S. employees and hundreds of millions of U.S. users is waiting for one man to decide if it can continue operations.

Go deeper