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TikTok case set to blow past election

Illustration of the TikTok logo wearing glasses sitting behind a desk with a stack of papers and a calculator

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

TikTok's lawsuit against the Biden administration will be far from over when Americans go to vote in this year's elections.

Why it matters: Lawmakers and government officials have deemed the app a national security threat that hosts disinformation and foreign influence campaigns and puts Americans' data at risk.

  • Those concerns won't be settled in court as primaries come and go and the general election nears.

Driving the news: Both sides asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to expedite the case, and a schedule was recently set with oral arguments in September.

  • TikTok and the DOJ are asking for a ruling by Dec. 6 in order to seek a review from SCOTUS before the law's mid-January deadline to sell.

Threat level: Before President Biden signed the TikTok divest-or-ban bill into law, lawmakers received classified briefings on the app and national security.

  • Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn said they were "deeply troubled" by what they had learned and are pushing to get the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to declassify the information.
  • That information could play a critical role in the litigation as it unfolds.

Yes, but: Election-related concerns go beyond TikTok, and officials are grappling with how to mitigate similar threats on U.S. social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube.

  • TikTok bans political advertising as a rule but has struggled to enforce that policy.

Meanwhile, former President Trump, who kicked off the process of trying to ban or sell off TikTok in the U.S. but has since changed his tune, joined TikTok this month.

What they're saying: Supporters of a TikTok ban tell Axios everything is on schedule and they're not concerned about the timeline.

  • "It is unlikely we'll get a ruling before November, but not impossible," said Nathan Leamer, a GOP consultant who pushed for the bill to pass. "The case is destined for the Supreme Court.… This is a feature of the process and not a bug."

DOJ declined to comment but pointed to a previous statement in which the department said the threat of TikTok manifests in three specific ways: "It has to do with the data, it has to do with the recommendation algorithm, it has to deal with the software."

  • TikTok did not respond to a request for comment.

What's next: TikTok and creator briefs are due June 20.

  • DOJ's brief is due July 26.
  • TikTok and creator reply briefs are due Aug. 15.
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