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

The TikTok deal's for-show provisions and flimsy foundations

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The new deal to rescue TikTok from a threatened U.S. ban — full of provisions aimed at creating the temporary appearance of a presidential win — looks like a sort of Potemkin village agreement.

How it works: Potemkin villages were fake-storefront towns stood up to impress a visiting czar and dignitaries. When the visitors left, the stage set got struck.

  • Similarly, many elements of this plan look hastily erected and easily abandoned once the spotlight moves on.
Sep 20, 2020 - Technology

Judge temporarily halts Trump's WeChat ban

Photo: Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A federal judge early on Sunday temporarily blocked a Trump administration order banning downloads of the Chinese-owned global messaging app WeChat.

Why it matters: The temporary injunction means WeChat will remain on Apple's and Google's app stores, despite a Commerce Department order to remove the app by Sunday evening.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
14 hours ago - Economy & Business

The tech war between the U.S. and China escalates

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Economic tension between the U.S. and China continues to escalate but is shifting in focus — away from the tit-for-tat trade war and toward a more direct confrontation over the future of technology at the heart of the conflict between the world's two largest economies.

Why it matters: The battle between the U.S. and China was always about tech supremacy and the direct confrontation could result in an accelerated splintering of global supply chains and a significant reduction of international commerce.

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