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TikTok vows legal fight after Biden signs sell-or-ban bill

April 24, 2024

The CEO of the popular short video app has said a newly signed US law calling for the company to find new ownership amounts to a "ban" and promised to fight the legislation in court.

A TikTok symbol in front of a US flag
TikTok's Chinese owner ByteDance has 9 months to divest in the app or it will be bannedImage: Olivier Douliery/AFP

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said the social media company would put up a legal fight in court against a US law calling for its divestment from Chinese ownership. 

"Make no mistake, this is a ban. A ban on TikTok and a ban on you and your voice," Shou said in a video posted on the app shortly after the bill was signed into law by US President Joe Biden on Wednesday. 

The newly signed law, which was passed through Congress in conjunction with a large-scale military aid bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, gives Chinese owner ByteDance nine months to sell the app, with a potential three-month extension if a sale was underway.

Under the bill, ByteDance would have to sell the app or be excluded from Apple and Google's app stores in the United States.

"Rest assured, we aren't going anywhere," Shou said in the video. "The facts and the Constitution are on our side and we expect to prevail again."

Chew called the move "ironic" given that the "freedom of expression on TikTok reflects the same American values that make the United States a beacon of freedom."

How would a legal challenge look?

TikTok is likely to challenge the bill on First Amendment grounds while some of TikTok's 170 million US users are also expected to take legal action.

The American Civil Liberties Union said banning or requiring divestiture of TikTok would "set an alarming global precedent for excessive government control over social media platforms."

In November 2023, a judge in the US state of Montana blocked a state ban on TikTok, citing free-speech grounds.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump was blocked by the courts in his bid to ban TikTok in the United States.

The bill signed on Wednesday, which could trigger the rare step of barring a company from operating in the US market, passed the Senate by a 79-18 vote three days after it cleared the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support.

Nevertheless, an official for President Biden's re-election campaign said it still intends to continue using TikTok in the run-up to this year's US election.

US and other Western officials have alleged the social media platform allows Chinese authorities to collect data, spy on users and act as a conduit to spread propaganda. Beijing and ByteDance strongly deny the claims.

US lawmakers move closer to nationwide TikTok ban

mf,wmr/wd (AFP, AP)