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TikTok creators file suit to block U.S. divestment or ban law

                                U.S. flag and TikTok logo are seen in this illustration taken.
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U.S. flag and TikTok logo are seen in this illustration taken.

WASHINGTON >> A group of TikTok creators said Tuesday they filed suit in U.S. federal court seeking to block a law signed by President Joe Biden that would force the divestiture of the short video app used by 170 million Americans or ban it, saying it has had “a profound effect on American life.”

The TikTok users suing include a Texas Marine Corps veteran who sells his ranch products, a Tennessee woman selling cookies and discussing parenting, a North Dakota college coach who makes sports commentary videos and a recent college graduate in North Carolina who advocates for the rights of sexual-assault survivors.

“Although they come from different places, professions, walks of life, and political persuasions, they are united in their view that TikTok provides them a unique and irreplaceable means to express themselves and form community,” said the lawsuit.

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, a law firm representing the creators, provided a copy of the lawsuit to Reuters it said had been filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The White House and Justice Department did not immediately comment.

The suit, which seeks injunctive relief, says the law threatens free speech and “promises to shutter a discrete medium of communication that has become part of American life.”

Last week, TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance filed a similar lawsuit, arguing that the law violates the U.S. Constitution on a number of grounds including running afoul of First Amendment free speech protections.

TikTok creators filed a similar suit in 2020 to block a prior attempt to block the app under then President Donald Trump, and also sued last year in Montana asking a court to block a state ban. In both instances, courts blocked the bans.

The law, signed by Biden on April 24, gives ByteDance until Jan. 19 to sell TikTok or face a ban. The White House has said it wants to see Chinese-based ownership ended on national security grounds but not a ban on TikTok.

The law prohibits app stores like Apple, and Alphabet’s Google, from offering TikTok and bars internet hosting services from supporting TikTok unless ByteDance divests TikTok.

The suit says to the extent the government may claim the law is needed to protect Americans’ data, “it has tried that strategy before and lost.” The suit says “the concerns are speculative, and even if they were not, they could be addressed with legislation much more narrowly tailored to any purported concern.”

The TikTok lawsuit said last week the divestiture “is simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally … There is no question: the Act (law) will force a shutdown of TikTok by January 19, 2025.”

Driven by worries among U.S. lawmakers that China could access data on Americans or spy on them with the app, the measure was passed overwhelmingly in Congress just weeks after being introduced.

The four-year battle over TikTok is a significant front in the ongoing conflict over the internet and technology between the United States and China. In April, Apple said China had ordered it to remove Meta Platform’s WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China over Chinese national security concerns.

Biden could extend the Jan. 19 deadline by three months if he determines ByteDance is making progress.

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