Axios Pro Exclusive Content

TikTok takes divest-or-ban law to court

Illustration of a gavel hovering over a phone with an image on the screen of a gavel hovering over a phone, in a recursive pattern.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok filed a petition on Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of the law forcing Chinese-owned ByteDance to sell the app or face a ban.

Why it matters: TikTok has made clear it is not interested in divesting, so winning in court is the app's path forward for now.

Driving the news: The filing from TikTok and ByteDance on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia lays out its strategy for getting the law thrown out.

  • TikTok said it would be heading to court after President Biden signed the law as part of a broader foreign security and aid package last month.

What's inside: TikTok argues in its filing that the law, the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, is an "unprecedented" violation of First Amendment rights.

  • "For the first time in history, Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single, named speech platform to a permanent, nationwide ban," the filing reads.
  • The company argues that the law's claim this is done in the interest of U.S. national security doesn't hold up to the "strict scrutiny" standard required of First Amendment-related cases.

TikTok says the government has not met the burden of proof required around its claims about the app's risk to data security.

  • "Congress itself has offered nothing to suggest that the TikTok platform poses the types of risks to data security or the spread of foreign propaganda that could conceivably justify the Act," the filing reads.

TikTok also argues that lawmakers failed to consider alternatives to a ban and engaged in a "hasty, closed-door legislative process."

  • The company says the timeline laid out by Congress "is simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally. And certainly not on the 270-day timeline required by the Act."

What's next: The law gives ByteDance nine months to arrange a sale, with the option that the president could extend the deadline by 90 days if sufficient progress toward a sale has been made.

Go deeper:

What led to TikTok's Washington fumble

How data privacy made it into the foreign aid package

TikTok ban could upend global app economy

Go deeper
Axios Pro

This article is currently free.