TikTok Ban Could Spur Legal Action Against Trump

TikTik looks set to sue the US government after Presidential Executive Orders issued on Friday effectively banned it and messaging app WeChat in the country.

A statement from the Chinese-owned social media app expressed exasperation at the decision, which it said was made without any “due process or adherence to the law.

“For nearly a year, we have sought to engage with the US government in good faith to provide a constructive solution to the concerns that have been expressed,” it argued.

“What we encountered instead was that the administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.”

The Executive Order has been viewed by many as a deliberate attempt to force a sale of TikTok’s US operations to a domestic tech firm. Microsoft currently appears to be in the driving seat although reports suggest Twitter is also interested. Donald Trump has reportedly claimed the US Treasury should get a cut of the sale for helping to enable the deal.

“TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage,” the Executive Order alleged.

“TikTok also reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive, such as content concerning protests in Hong Kong and China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. This mobile application may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.”

TikTok denies having ever censored content or shared data with the Chinese government, and argued that the decision threatens to undermine business trust in America’s commitment to the rule of law.

Reports suggest it could be ready to file a suit against the Trump administration as early as Tuesday.

A separate order was issued on Friday which effectively bans the use of Chinese messaging giant WeChat in the US.

Mishcon de Reya’s cyber-intelligence director, Mark Tibbs, said the orders could spark a significant backlash, both by the Chinese government and among user groups.

“Considering the scale of usage of both apps in the US and globally, these executive orders will undoubtedly cause substantial impacts for both users, communities and in some instances, businesses which rely on the apps to market goods and services, or promote their brands,” he argued.

“The orders may also stimulate the development of various technical workarounds by users to be able to use the apps, and indeed the development of similar apps to fill the niche which will exist. Larger US technology companies will likely see the announcements as an opportunity for future acquisition or launching and promotion of their own alternatives.”

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