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TikTok Sues Over Divestment Bill

Hyemin Han
Tuesday, May 7, 2024, 1:28 PM

TikTok and Bytedance argue that the bill fronts as a divestiture measure but is really an attack on free speech rights in the U.S.

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On May 7, TikTok Inc. and Bytedance Ltd. entered a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit suing the U.S. government for its recent passage of the TikTok divestment-or-ban bill. Congress passed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act (PAFACA) last month, and President Biden signed it into law on April 24. The act mandates a 270-day timeline for a “qualified divestiture” of Bytedance Ltd.’s control over the application, such that TikTok may continue to operate in the United States without being controlled by a “foreign adversary.” 

TikTok and Bytedance argue that such a divestiture is not commercially, technologically, or legally possible—and that even if it were, such a requirement violates First Amendment rights. Allowing the act to stand “would allow the government to decide that a company may no longer own and publish the innovative and unique speech platform it created,” creating a dangerous precedent for invocations of national security to shut down other forms of free expression like newspapers, TikTok and Bytedance assert. The functional closure of this application will cut off Americans from connecting with millions of other global users in an infringement on free speech and individual liberty, they add. 

“There is no question: the Act will force a shutdown of TikTok by January 19, 2025, silencing the 170 million Americans who use the platform to communicate in ways that cannot be replicated elsewhere,” contend TikTok and Bytedance. They ask for an order enjoining Attorney General Merrick Garland from enforcing the act.

You can read the complaint here or below: 

Hyemin Han is an associate editor of Lawfare and is based in Washington, D.C. Previously, she worked in eviction defense and has interned on Capitol Hill and with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. She holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College, where she was editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth independent daily.

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