Skip to content

TikTok sues US, calling divestiture law unconstitutional

Social media company cites First Amendment concerns, says the goal of recent legislation is effectively a ban

Shou Chew, CEO of TikTok, arrives to testify during the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 31.
Shou Chew, CEO of TikTok, arrives to testify during the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 31. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Video-sharing app TikTok on Tuesday sued the United States, arguing that the law passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden that forces TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance to divest or face a ban is unconstitutional.

“Banning TikTok is so obviously unconstitutional, in fact, that even the Act’s sponsors recognized that reality, and therefore have tried mightily to depict the law not as a ban at all, but merely a regulation of TikTok’s ownership,” the company said in its lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

Biden signed into law a measure that gives ByteDance 270 days to divest the company. The law allows Biden to provide a 90-day extension, bringing the total time before divesting to about a year. If the app isn’t sold by then, the law would prohibit U.S. app stores from offering TikTok to American users. 

Lawmakers who backed the bill — including former Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. — have said the law doesn’t aim to ban the app but is merely intended to force a divestiture on national security grounds. Congress said it was acting on information from Justice Department and intelligence officials, who said the data collected by TikTok on 170 million American users is available to Chinese authorities who could use it to push propaganda. 

TikTok in its lawsuit said the goal of the law is effectively a ban. 

“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,” the lawsuit stated. 

Several small-business users of TikTok and promoters of creative content have said that losing access to the app could hurt their livelihoods. 

In its lawsuit, TikTok alleged that Congress “has never before enacted a law like this.” If the law is allowed to stand, Congress could “circumvent the First Amendment by invoking national security and ordering the publisher of any individual newspaper or website to sell to avoid being shut down,” the TikTok petition stated.

It’s unclear if non-Chinese investors would band together to buy the app after Chinese officials, citing technology transfer restrictions, have said they wouldn’t allow the sale of the app’s algorithm, which is critical to the success of TikTok.

Recent Stories

Spared angry protests at Morehouse, Biden pushes post-war Gaza plan

Capitol Lens | Duck dodgers

Election year politics roil the EV transition

Thompson’s animal welfare, whole milk priorities in farm bill

Schumer plans vote on border security bill that GOP blocked

Republicans look to reverse rule based on gun law they backed