TikTok, the rapaciously growing social media platform controlled by ByteDance, disclosed the size and surge of its user base for the first time in a lawsuit filed Monday against President Donald Trump.
Privately held ByteDance, founded by Chinese internet entrepreneur Zhang Yiming, revealed it has 100 million monthly active users, up from 91.9 million in June and more than double the 39.9 million of last October. Since January 2018, the site has surged more than 800% from 11.3 million users, with its global footprint reaching 689 million users across more than 200 countries.
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The president issued an order August 6 declaring the site will be banned unless it can secure an acquisition by a U.S.-based firm. Microsoft is among the candidates to buy the site. Hyped over the weekend and in a TikTok blog this morning, the complaint unveiled Monday in federal court in California (read it in full HERE) seeks an order “invalidating” the president’s order. It wants the action, which it views as an attack on the First Amendment, declared “unlawful and unconstitutional” ASAP.
On a daily basis, TikTok said it has 50 million active users in the U.S. That’s less than Snapchat’s 90 million in North America but it’s on a steeper incline. It’s an appealing profile for a young-skewing social platform pitching itself to U.S. advertisers. Former Disney executive Kevin Mayer was tapped in February to become CEO of TikTok, with wooing brands a key priority along with steering it through a period of intense regulatory and political heat.
The lawsuit “seeks to prevent the government from impermissibly banning TikTok, a mobile software application that 100 million Americans use to create and share short videos composed of expressive content,” the beginning of the complaint prepared by lawyers at Covington & Bulring LLP’s DC, NYC and LA offices says. “The order is thus a gross misappropriation of IEEPA authority and a pretext for furthering the President’s broader campaign of anti-China rhetoric in the run-up to the U.S. election,” the filing adds.
Along with the former Celebrity Apprentice host, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Department of Commerce itself are named as defendants in the sprawling suit. The complaint is aimed in no small part at de-fanging Trump’s recent anti-China barnstorming.
“The order cites no evidence that TikTok enables the Chinese government to track any U.S. persons, nor does the order substantiate its allegations regarding TikTok’s supposed censorship or its use as a platform for disinformation,” the compliant states. “It also fails to take account of any of the voluminous documentation provided to CFIUS, which details TikTok’s policies, procedures, and operational teams in place to safeguard against precisely these hypothetical concerns,” the 39-page document continues.
TikTok refers to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and its mechanism for a POTUS to implement an EO as sweeping as Trump’s earlier this month.
“While IEEPA does not require a risk to fully materialize before the President may invoke its authorities, it cannot be—and is not—the case that the statute permits the President to rely on such unfounded speculation,” the filing goes on to say.
“The order uses such equivocal language because, in fact, TikTok does none of these things: TikTok has made it clear, through its actions and statements, that it shares no information with the Chinese government and will never do so—a conclusion reportedly shared by the CIA, which found ‘no evidence’ that Chinese intelligence services have ever accessed data from TikTok,” the filing asserts.
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