TikTok US Ban Appeal Gets 16 September Court Date

A US federal appeals court is to hear oral arguments on 16 September in a legal action against a US law that would force TikTok parent ByteDance to divest the social media platform’s US operations by 19 January or face a ban in the country.

The date puts the trial weeks before US presidential elections in November in which one of the candidates is expected to be Donald Trump, who tried to ban TikTok in 2020 but earlier this month joined the platform and said he has concerns that a ban would empower competitors such as Facebook, which he called an “enemy of the people”.

The case involves separate actions brought by TikTok and its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance, and a group of TikTok creators who called the platform an “irreplaceable” part of American life.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia earlier said the trial should begin in September, in line with demands by those bringing the suit, as well as by the US Department of Justice, for the matter to move forward quickly.

Image credit: Unsplash

‘Unique andd irreplaceable’

The creators, TikTok and ByteDance must file legal briefs by Thursday and the Justice Department by 26 July with reply briefs due by 15 August, the court said.

The company and the Justice Department are seeking a ruling by 6 December so that a review can be sought from the Supreme Court if needed.

The group of TikTok content creators filed their lawsuit on 14 May arguing that the app, used by 170 million Americans, “provides them a unique and irreplaceable means to express themselves and form community”.

In their lawsuit earlier this month TikTok and ByteDance said the law exceeds the bounds of the Constitution and suppresses speech for millions of citizens.

As the law passed quickly through Congress, most lawmakers argued that they were not seeking a ban but wanted the app to be transferred to different ownership, something TikTok and ByteDance said is “simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally” and “certainly not on the 270-day timeline required by the Act”.

As such the law is really a disguised ban, the companies argued.

‘Unconstitutional’

“Banning TikTok is so obviously unconstitutional, in fact, that even the Act’s sponsors recognized that reality, and therefore have tried mightily to depict the law not as a ban at all, but merely a regulation of TikTok’s ownership,” the companies said in their initial legal filing.

Lawmakers and the Biden administration say TikTok’s Chinese ownership could allow the Chinese government to spy on Americans or influence them.

The law would ban US app stores from hosting the app and internet hosting services from supporting its infrastructure if it remains under ByteDance’s ownership.

TikTok was banned in India in 2020 amidst a border dispute with China and is barred from use on government-issued devices in many countries, including the UK.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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