By Katy Stech Ferek and Georgia Wells
TikTok and its parent company filed a new lawsuit against
President Trump and his administration in a last-minute legal push
to stop a ban on downloading the popular video-sharing app.
The suit was filed late Friday in federal court in Washington,
D.C., in response to a Trump administration announcement earlier in
the day that it would ban U.S. downloads of TikTok and another
Chinese-owned app, WeChat, after 11:59 p.m. on Sunday as a result
of what U.S. officials say are national security concerns about the
The lawsuit came as TikTok and ByteDance Ltd., its Chinese
parent, awaited a decision from Mr. Trump on a separate effort to
preserve the app's presence in the U.S. through a deal with U.S.
partners. Mr. Trump later Saturday said he had agreed in concept to
that deal, which entails Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. taking a
combined 20% in TikTok, which will be based in the U.S. Oracle also
will provide cloud services and guarantee TikTok's data is
The Trump administration contends that the data that TikTok and
WeChat collect from U.S. users could be shared with the Chinese
government. TikTok has said it would never hand over such data.
WeChat, owned by China-based Tencent Holdings Ltd., also said it
"incorporates the highest standards of user privacy and data
TikTok and ByteDance in their complaint argue that the Trump
administration acted beyond its capacity and violated free-speech
protections with Friday's decision to proceed with a ban. That
decision would mean the apps may have to be removed from
marketplaces like Apple Inc.'s App Store and Google Play.
Mr. Trump and Commerce Department officials "took this
extraordinary action of prohibiting a popular communication and
information-sharing platform without affording its owners...due
process of law, and for political reasons rather than because of
any 'unusual and extraordinary threat' to the United States,"
TikTok lawyers said in the lawsuit.
After Mr. Trump's announcement Saturday on TikTok's deal with
Oracle and Walmart, the Commerce Department said it would delay
Friday's order against TikTok by a week, until Sept. 27 at 11:59
p.m., in light of "recent positive developments."
Because of those deal talks, Commerce officials in Friday's
announcement had already pushed off until Nov. 12 more severe
action against TikTok that would prohibit key transactions with the
company. That timetable matched the 90-day deadline that Mr. Trump
set for the divestiture of TikTok's U.S. operations.
Friday's lawsuit from TikTok echoes one it filed last month in
federal court in California, though Friday's challenge also raises
what it says are several administrative missteps by U.S. officials,
including overlooking evidence that TikTok has presented in a
separate national security review process.
The California lawsuit has made little progress, and Justice
Department lawyers have yet to respond to it. A spokeswoman for
TikTok said it believed it was best positioned to win relief in
court in Washington because that is where the government's actions
The Trump administration's action against WeChat is also being
challenged in court in a suit filed by a group of WeChat users on
Aug. 21 in San Francisco. U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler heard
additional arguments in that case Saturday afternoon and said she
planned to issue a ruling later in the day.
WeChat users behind the suit raised similar First Amendment and
due process claims to those in the TikTok suit. They also voiced
concerns about the potential ban's effect on the Chinese-American
community and older people who rely on it. Few alternative apps
exist, WeChat users said in the lawsuit.
Lawyers representing the U.S. government argued that other apps
could provide users with features and services similar to
TikTok is far more popular than WeChat in the U.S., where it has
roughly 100 million monthly users, and its fate has been closely
watched by its fans as well as Silicon Valley's top executives.
Adam Mosseri, chief executive of Facebook Inc.'s Instagram,
tweeted on Friday that the U.S. banning TikTok "would be quite bad
for Instagram, Facebook, and the internet more broadly." Instagram
earlier this year launched a new service called Reels that includes
many similar features to TikTok and was seen as a potential threat
to the app's surge in popularity.
Vanessa Pappas, TikTok's interim chief, quickly voiced her
agreement with Mr. Mosseri. "We invite Facebook and Instagram to
publicly join our challenge and support our litigation. This is a
moment to put aside our competition and focus on core principles
like freedom of expression and due process of law," she said on
The Journal previously reported that Facebook's CEO Mark
Zuckerberg had stoked concerns about TikTok in Washington.
Separately on Friday, three influencers on TikTok also sued the
Trump administration in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, also
alleging the executive order violated the First and Fifth
amendments. Comedian Douglas Marland, fashion designer Cosette
Rinab and musician Alec Chambers, who have a combined following of
more than six million on TikTok, said in the suit that the order
affects their ability to work and violates due process.
"Purportedly issued to address national security concerns, the
Executive Order approaches this alleged problem with a
sledgehammer, not a scalpel, as the First Amendment requires,"
their suit said.
Sebastian Herrera contributed to this article.
Write to Katy Stech Ferek at email@example.com and Georgia
Wells at Georgia.Wells@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 19, 2020 21:47 ET (01:47 GMT)
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