TikTok sues U.S. government. What does it mean for the potential ban of the platform?

TikTok's lawsuit argues that the ban is a violation of the First Amendment.

TikTok filed a widely expected lawsuit Tuesday seeking a court order to prevent the U.S. from enforcing a ban on the social app after President Biden signed the legislation last month. The potential ban would require the platform’s parent company, the China-based ByteDance, to divest from TikTok and sell to a U.S.-based company by Jan. 19, 2025, to continue operating in the U.S. ByteDance has already said it would rather shut down TikTok than sell it.

The lawsuit, which was filed with a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., claims that the U.S. government is violating TikTok’s First Amendment rights as well as “silencing the 170 million Americans who use the platform to communicate in ways that cannot be replicated elsewhere.” The Department of Justice declined to comment on the story for Yahoo News.

There are concerns that the Chinese government could access user data through TikTok since the app is owned by a Chinese company, which is why the House passed a standalone bill on the ban in March. At the time, it was unclear if the Senate agreed TikTok was a national security threat, so the ban was then tacked on to a package of bills that would send aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

TikTok has denied all of the allegations and says it has taken measures to protect user data and block Chinese government interference, such as hosting data on U.S.-owned server Oracle.

According to the lawsuit, TikTok claims the ban violates “both free speech and individual liberty.”

“For the first time in history, Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single, named speech platform to a permanent, nationwide ban, and bars every American from participating in a unique online community with more than 1 billion people worldwide,” the lawsuit says.

TikTok also claims the government has not provided enough evidence to prove that the app is a threat to national security. Instead, TikTok called it “at most speculation.”

If the ban does take effect in 2025, it will be illegal for app stores and web hosting companies to distribute or update the TikTok app on American users’ phones.

TikTok is arguing that a sale would be impossible from a technological standpoint, claiming that the “millions of lines of software code that have been painstakingly developed by thousands of engineers” would have to be “moved to a large, alternative team of engineers — a team that does not exist and would have no understanding of the complex code necessary to run the platform.”

TikTok is banned from federal government phones and state government devices because of similar security concerns.

The difference is that these bans are put in place by governments or employers, which have the authority to keep certain apps off of devices and networks they own and operate.

In May 2023, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte tried to issue a statewide ban on TikTok. TikTok sued, and a federal judge agreed that the ban violated the First Amendment.

TikTok’s lawsuit asks for the federal appeals court to declare that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution and to order the attorney general against enforcing it.

Bloomberg analysts anticipate that for the U.S., this lawsuit could mean that government officials will have to publicly reveal classified information to prove why the TikTok ban is justified.

“TikTok is the underdog here,” Matthew Schettenhelm, a litigation analyst for Bloomberg, said. “It is really tough to overcome Congress’s judgment on national security.”