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Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

TikTok is suing the Trump administration over the president's executive order to ban the app unless it's sold to a U.S. company, arguing it's no security threat and that it was deprived due process.

Why it matters: There are bipartisan concerns that TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, could share U.S. user data with Beijing. TikTok has lobbied aggressively to dispel those accusations and now says the executive order is invalid because the government has failed to prove that point.

Driving the news: In a blog post Monday, TikTok says it is filing a complaint in a federal court Monday to protect its users, creators and advertisers that would be impacted by the ban.

  • "Put simply, we have a thriving community and we are grateful — and responsible — to them," the company writes. "[W]e have no choice but to take action to protect our rights, and the rights of our community and employees. "

The complaint makes several key arguments. According to TikTok...

  1. The administration ignored its efforts to prove it doesn't share U.S. user data.
  2. The order ignores due process, banning activities that don't clearly pose the sort of "unusual and extraordinary threat" the president needs to invoke the emergency powers underpinning the order.
  3. The order misapplies those powers because TikTok isn't a telecom provider. The order relies on an emergency the president declared last year aimed at keeping Chinese telecom firms like Huawei out of U.S. networks and supply chains.

Be smart: The complaint doesn't directly challenge a second executive order stemming from a Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) ruling that TikTok's parent ByteDance must divest its 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly, widely seen as the mechanism for TikTok's U.S. operations to be transferred to an American firm.

  • The complaint does, however, assert that TikTok made a year-long effort "in good faith" to provide the administration with the information requested to assess the transaction, but that it was "disregarded."
  • "CFIUS rushed out its decision within five minutes of its deadline," the complaint alleges.

Sources tell Axios that TikTok fears the order is so vaguely written that, even if TikTok were to sell to a U.S. company to avoid the ban, the administration could still try to shut down the app post-sale.

  • Nevertheless, the lawsuit isn't expected to directly impact deal talks.

Go deeper

Nov 23, 2020 - Technology

Biden's openings for tech progress

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images 

Item No. 1 on President-elect Joe Biden's day-one tech agenda, controlling the flood of misinformation online, offers no fast fixes — but other tech issues facing the new administration hold out opportunities for quick action and concrete progress.

What to watch: Closing the digital divide will be a high priority, as the pandemic has exposed how many Americans still lack reliable in-home internet connections and the devices needed to work and learn remotely.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.