Everything We Know About TikTok’s Lawsuit Against The US Government Over App Ban, Explained

Everything We Know About TikTok’s Lawsuit Against The US Government Over App Ban, Explained | Photo: Getty Images
Everything We Know About TikTok’s Lawsuit Against The US Government Over App Ban, Explained | Photo: Getty Images

TikTok‘s parent company has sued the U.S. government in an expected move following a new law that could shut down the social media app in the country next year to block the ban. The case, which the Supreme Court will likely decide, raises important issues of free speech, the spread of social media and national security concerns, all in an election year. Here’s what you need to know about the new lawsuit.

TikTok says ban is unconstitutional

On Tuesday, Chinese information technology company ByteDance filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the new law, which would shut down TikTok’s ability to operate in the United States unless it sells the app to a company or companies in a country not considered a “foreign adversary” of the U.S. The lawsuit argues that this law is unconstitutional, as it would violate the First Amendment right of free speech for the 170 million Americans who reportedly use the app. The lawsuit alleges that “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 suit also claims that the ban violates the Fifth Amendment right to due process because it targets a specific company “for adverse treatment without any reason for doing so.”

The merits of the TikTok cour case

The case will pit free speech concerns against potential security threats. The U.S. government, meanwhile, argues that TikTok is a threat to national security because Chinese law could allow the Chinese government to force ByteDance to give it access to American user information. TikTok supporters, meanwhile, argue that the national security risk is only hypothetical while the First Amendment concerns are immediate and significant. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have supported TikTok on these grounds. Public opinion on the case appears split. A new ABC News/Ipsos poll shows that a slight majority of Americans support government efforts to force a sale of TikTok or to ban it if a sale does not happen. Of those who “frequently” use the app, however, 75% oppose the ban.

How courts have ruled so far in TikTok cases

The app has secured legal victories in the last few years. When then-President Donald Trump attempted to use an executive order to force TikTok to be sold or shut down in 2020, a federal court blocked the move, saying that it would violate the First Amendment and that the government had not explored other options. Similarly, when Montana attempted to ban TikTok in 2023, a federal court also blocked that ban. The Supreme Court has not yet weighed in, and it’s unclear whether the conservative-majority court will view the free speech or national security concerns as more pressing.

It will likely be months before we know what will come of TikTok’s lawsuit. However, the fact that the company has filed its case demonstrates that it is willing to fight the new ban placed upon it. For now, the millions of Americans who use TikTok can continue to do so even as the site’s future remains uncertain.