TikTok sues the United States

TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance are suing to prevent the so-called "TikTok ban" signed into law by President Biden two weeks ago. The companies filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, claiming the law is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment.

In any case, the move is not surprising: TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has previously said that the company will fight the law in court. Zhou and his company believe U.S. law is on their side and that Congress's laws won't hold up in court. However, Congress first worked with the Justice Department on the law, so lawmakers are confident the law will withstand scrutiny.

The "TikTok ban" gives parent company ByteDance nine months to sell the app to a company not based in China. President Biden could extend the timeline by 90 days if ByteDance indicates it is trying to sell or that a sale is underway. This means that ByteDance will have until April 2025 at best to find someone to take over the app.

However, the fight is a matter of life and death for TikTok's U.S. operations, as ByteDance says it will not sell the app. If the company keeps its word, TikTok will be removed from U.S. app stores in January unless it wins in court.

Why does the US government ban TikTok?

Members of Congress have worried about TikTok for years. There are two main problems: The app is owned by a Chinese company, which is required by law to disclose user data to the Chinese government upon request. Lawmakers consider this a potential security risk for U.S. users because their personal data could be collected by the Chinese government.

The other side of the coin involves what Americans see on the app: Lawmakers worry that the Chinese government could manipulate the videos TikTok makes available to U.S. users in a way that favors China. The government already has tight controls on content shown on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. TikTok says it will not provide U.S. user data to the Chinese government and denies claims that the government interferes with what Americans see.

While these concerns are mostly hypothetical, there are some instances where Congressional concerns are correct: ByteDance employees were able to obtain the IP addresses of U.S. journalists from their TikTok accounts, and in July we learned that some U.S. user data was indeed Stored in China refutes TikTok’s claims.

While Congress doesn’t have a reputation for being tech-savvy, TikTok has done nothing to assuage their concerns. In fact, as they called on the user base to send a message to Congress defying the TikTok ban, lawmakers only saw more reason than ever to pass the bill.

For the full timeline of the U.S. government's crackdown on TikTok, check out our explanation here.