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Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Jiji Press/Y. Kurose

TikTok to sue over Trump's executive order

August 23, 2020

The massively popular app is under pressure to comply with President Donald Trump's executive order or face a potential shutdown in the US. It isn't the only Chinese-owned app in Washington's crosshairs.


Popular social media app TikTok announced Saturday that it planned to sue the Trump administration over an executive order which could ban the Chinese-owned service from being used in the US.

"To ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and users are treated fairly, we have no choice but to challenge the Executive Order through the judicial system," said a TikTok spokesman, adding that the company plans to file the motion next week.

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order in August giving TikTok's Chinese-based parent company ByteDance 90 days to divest the US operations of TikTok before the app is banned.  

Trump has accused TikTok of being a threat to national security, saying the app's data collection policy "threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans' personal and proprietary information."

The company has said that it never shared users' information with the Chinese government. The app has been downloaded 175 million times in the US and over a billion times around the world.

Major tech companies Microsoft and Oracle have expressed interest in purchasing TikTok in order to keep the app running.

Another app under threat

Some US-based users of Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat are also suing the Trump administration over the crackdown. The lawsuit, which was filed on Friday, said an executive order issued at the same time as the measure targeting TikTok would also affect its service in the US. WeChat is owned by Chinese company Tencent Holdings.  

It is still unclear exactly what twin executive orders, which take effect on September 20, will mean for the apps' users in the US.

"The first thing we're going to seek is a postponement of the implementation of the penalties and sanctions — a reasonable period of time between explaining what the rules are and punishing people for not complying with them," said Michael Bien, an attorney for WeChat users.

Read moreTikTok removes 380,000 videos in US for violating hate speech policies

Caught in a trade war

Analysts says Trump's executive orders stand in the way of the American ideal of a global internet, and could potentially cause other nations to follow suit.

Milton Mueller, founder of the Internet Governance Project in the US, told the AFP news agency the crackdown was "really an attempt to fragment the internet and the global information society along US and Chinese lines, and shut China out of the information economy."

The US and China have been been locked in a long-standing trade war, with both sides trading sanctions and threats in recent years. Shortly after the executive orders were issued, the US put sanctions on Hong Kong's leader over the security clampdown following pro-democracy protests.

kbd/nm (AFP, dpa, AP)

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