Chinese social media app TikTok’s legal challenge to the Trump administration’s executive order blocking the app from doing transactions in the US will delay but not prevent a sale of the company, according to Steven Davidoff Solomon, a professor at the U.C. Berkeley Center for Law, Business, and the Economy.
Trump issued an executive order on August 6 that made it illegal for US citizens to transact with TikTok within 45 days of the order. Another executive order was issued on August 14 requiring TikTok to be sold within 90 days.
TikTok’s lawsuit takes aim at the August 6 Executive Order with TikTok claiming that the Trump administration has acted “without any evidence to justify such an extreme action, and without any due process.”
We obtained a copy of the TikTok lawsuit for you here.
TikTok also argues that it has taken “extraordinary measures” to protect the privacy and security of TikTok’s US user data by erecting software barriers that keep US user data separate from the other data stored by its Chinese parent company ByteDance, by appointing US executives who are not subject to Chinese law, and by creating a US-based content moderation team that operates independently from China.
However, Solomon argues that TikTok’s lawsuit will fail and that it’s a “delaying tactic, at best.”
“By this time next year TikTok will almost certainly be under new, American ownership,” Solomon argues.
He added that while TikTok has precedents for a legal challenge, “it would merely delay the inevitable” and that TikTok “cannot challenge the substance of the divestiture order.”
While Solomon believes that TikTok’s lawsuit won’t succeed, he suggests that the lawsuit could give TikTok more time to secure a deal and avoid a fire sale. This, he suggests, would either help it sell for a higher price or allow it to negotiate better sales terms.
The lawsuit follows numerous reports that have raised concerns about TikTok’s privacy, security, and content moderation practices.
This month alone, TikTok was caught using encryption to hide its tracking of user data and its owner ByteDance was caught censoring anti-China content in an Indonesian news app. Last month, a former Chinese web censor also claimed that TikTok staff in China censor American users.
Currently, the tech companies Oracle and Microsoft are two of the leading candidates to acquire TikTok. And Oracle’s support of groups that push against social media censorship raises the possibility that if it were to purchase TikTok, it would run the platform in a way that promotes free speech and rejects censorship.
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