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TikTok Plans Lawsuit to Block U.S.’s Divest-or-Ban Legislation If It Becomes Law

A bill that would ban TikTok — unless its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, divests its ownership stake — could soon become a U.S. law. TikTok is gearing up a legal fight against the measure if that happens, with plans to challenge it in court on First Amendment grounds.

“At the stage that the bill is signed, we will move to the courts for a legal challenge,” Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, wrote in a memo to the company’s staff over the weekend.

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Beckerman’s message to employees came in the wake of the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage Saturday by a 360-58 vote of a revised version of a previous TikTok ban bill it had passed. House Speaker Mike Johnson had issued a new proposal on the TikTok ban — tied to a package of foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan — that extends the deadline for ByteDance’s sale of TikTok from six to nine months, with an additional 90-day extension possible if sale negotiations are in process.

The TikTok ban bill is due to go up for a vote in the Senate as early as Tuesday. President Biden has said he would sign the bill into law.

The bill is a “clear violation” of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and would have “devastating consequences” for the 7 million small businesses on the platform, according to Beckerman. “We’ll continue to fight. This is the beginning, not the end of this long process,” Beckerman wrote in the memo, which was first reported by The Information. Beckerman also criticized the TikTok divest-or-ban bill as “an unprecedented deal worked out between the Republican Speaker and President Biden.”

TikTok has won legal victories against other laws that have sought to ban the app. Last December, a federal judge blocked Montana’s first-of-its-kind statewide ban of TikTok, ruling that the law likely violated the First Amendment. An attempt by the Trump administration to force ByteDance to sell TikTok also was found unconstitutional by federal courts on First Amendment grounds.

It might be difficult for the U.S. to defend the constitutionality of a law banning TikTok, as it specifically targets only the app. “Banning TikTok would selectively target one platform, and the speech rights of its 170 million users would be collateral damage,” Kate Ruane, director of the Center for Democracy & Technology’s Free Expression Project, said in a statement. “The data security issues for TikTok are the same for other platforms. The way to address them is to enact a comprehensive consumer privacy law.”

U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have raised the alarm about TikTok, arguing that it represents a national security threat on the theory that China’s communist regime could demand access to data on U.S. users or force TikTok to promote Chinese propaganda. TikTok has repeatedly claimed the Chinese government has never made such demands and says 60% of ByteDance’s ownership is represented by global investment firms.

Meanwhile, amid the mounting legislative threat, TikTok has continued on a business-as-usual track even.

The app inked an exclusive deal with Taylor Swift to promote her new album “The Tortured Poets Department” with new interactive features — after Swift’s songs returned to TikTok under a side deal, as other Universal Music Group artists mostly remain locked out in a licensing dispute.

Also last week, TikTok announced a deal with ticketing provider AXS last week to let artists, venues and festivals in the U.S. and some other countries sell tickets through the app, adding to its agreement with Ticketmaster. And earlier this month, TikTok announced it was returning as the official entertainment partner for the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest.

SEE ALSO: TikTok Joins Ranks of Internet Traffic ‘Supergiants’: Data

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