TikTok on Monday sued U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration over his executive order banning transactions in the United States with the popular short-form video-sharing app, calling it a pretext to fuel anti-China rhetoric as he seeks reelection.
In a blog post, TikTok said it strongly disagreed with the White House’s position that the company was a national security threat, saying it had “taken extraordinary measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok’s U.S. user data.”
Both the app and parent company ByteDance Ltd also described Trump’s call in his Aug. 6 executive order for a TikTok ban as a means to further his alleged “broader campaign of anti-China rhetoric.”
They further claim this is ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, where Trump is seeking a second term.
It also said the administration has ignored its “extensive efforts” to address its concerns, and accused Trump of politicizing the dispute.
“We do not take suing the government lightly,” TikTok said. “But with the Executive Order threatening to bring a ban on our U.S. operations … we simply have no choice.”
The White House referred a request for comment to the U.S. Department of Justice, which declined to comment.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing
Amid growing distrust between Washington and Beijing, Trump has for weeks complained that TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd, was a national security threat and might share information about users with the Chinese government.
His Aug. 6 executive order called for banning transactions with the app after 45 days.
Trump issued a separate executive order on Aug. 14 giving ByteDance 90 days to divest TikTok’s U.S. operations and any data.
Reuters reported mid-August that TikTok was preparing to mount a legal challenge as early as Monday to Trump’s Aug. 6 order.
ByteDance had acquired Shanghai-based video app Musical.ly in a $1 billion transaction in 2017, and relaunched it as TikTok the following year.
In its blog post, TikTok said the Trump administration violated its constitutional right to due process by banning the company without notice.
It accused Trump of misusing the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which lets the president regulate international commerce during a national emergency.
Trump had in May 2019 invoked that law to stop alleged efforts by foreign telecommunications companies to conduct economic and industrial espionage against the United States.
The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles federal court names Trump, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross as defendants.
TikTok claims executive order is ‘politicized’
But TikTok said the Aug. 6 executive order was not supported by the emergency Trump declared a year earlier, and that the company did not provide the types of technology and services contemplated at that time.
It also said the executive order was not rooted in genuine national security concerns, adding: “We believe the Administration’s decisions were heavily politicized, and industry experts have said the same.”
ByteDance has been in talks to sell TikTok’s North American, Australian and New Zealand operations to companies including Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Oracle Corp (ORCL.N).
Those assets could be worth $25 billion to $30 billion, people familiar with the matter have said.
Before buying TikTok, ByteDance had not sought advance approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews acquisitions for potential national security risks.
CFIUS later opened an investigation and on July 30 found national security risks associated with the purchase.
But it “repeatedly refused” to engage with ByteDance’s proposals to address concerns, including a nonbinding letter of intent to sell to Microsoft presented earlier July 30, according to the lawsuit.