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TikTok, US employees plan to sue Trump administration over app ban

Trump last week ordered sweeping but vague bans on dealings with the Chinese owners of TikTok and messaging app WeChat, saying they are a threat to US national security, foreign policy and the economy

twitter-logoAssociated Press | August 14, 2020 | Updated 07:44 IST
TikTok, US employees plan to sue Trump administration over app ban
The TikTok order would take effect in September, but it remains unclear what it will mean for the apps' 100 million U.S. users, many of them teenagers or young adults who use it to post and watch short-form videos

TikTok and its US employees are planning to take President Donald Trump's administration to court over his sweeping order to ban the popular video app, according to a lawyer preparing one of the lawsuits. The employees' legal challenge to Trump's executive order will be separate from a pending lawsuit from the company that owns the app, though both will argue that the order is unconstitutional, said Mike Godwin, an internet policy lawyer representing the employees.

Trump last week ordered sweeping but vague bans on dealings with the Chinese owners of TikTok and messaging app WeChat, saying they are a threat to US national security, foreign policy and the economy. The TikTok order would take effect in September, but it remains unclear what it will mean for the apps' 100 million U.S. users, many of them teenagers or young adults who use it to post and watch short-form videos.

It's also unclear if it will make it illegal for TikTok to pay its roughly 1,500 workers in the U.S., which is why some of them came to Godwin for help, he said. The order would prohibit any transaction by any person with TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance.

Employees correctly recognize that their jobs are in danger and their payment is in danger right now, Godwin said. TikTok didn't return multiple requests for comment this week. It said in a statement Friday that it was shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process.

The Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution safeguard life, liberty and property from arbitrary government action lacking due process of law. Microsoft is in talks to buy parts of TikTok, in a potential sale that's being forced under Trump's threat of a ban. TikTok said it spent nearly a year trying to engage in good faith with the U.S. government to address its concerns.

What we encountered instead was that the Administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses, the company's statement said.

The White House didn't immediately return a request for comment Thursday on the pending challenges. Godwin said he was retained by Patrick Ryan, who joined TikTok from Google earlier this year as a technical program manager. Ryan posted a public fundraising pitch on GoFundMe this week to raise money for attorneys who can fight this unconstitutional taking. This is unprecedented, Ryan wrote.

And it's frankly really uncool. Unlike other Chinese tech companies targeted by Trump, such as telecom giant Huawei, TikTok's widespread popularity among Americans adds a layer of complexity to its legal and political challenges. The looming ban has annoyed TikTok users, some of them Trump supporters like Pam Graef of Metairie, Louisiana.

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