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TikTok says Donald Trump’s big ban ignores legal process

By | Published on Monday 10 August 2020


TikTok hit back on Friday at Donald Trump’s executive order that will instigate a US ban against the video sharing app next month.

It claimed that the US government had resisted multiple efforts on its part to address the concerns of American politicians about its platform and had instead relied on unsubstantiated reports and hearsay. Trump also failed, TikTok added, to go through due process before issuing last week’s order. Legal action is now likely to follow.

Trump’s executive order bans American citizens and companies from transacting with TikTok’s China-based owner Bytedance from 15 Sep. The President’s missive cited widespread concerns that the Chinese government has access to data on TikTok’s platform, and can also use the app to spread misinformation around the world.

TikTok has long denied those allegations and insists that it complies with the data protection laws of each country in which it operates. Responding specifically to Trump’s statement, it said on Friday: “We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request”.

It added that it had reached out to the US government several times over the last year to address the various data concerns that been raised, while also considering a sale of its US business to an American company in a bid to placate its critics among the political community in Washington.

But, it said, rather that the Trump team conversing with TikTok on the issues, “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”.

Meanwhile, it added, the executive order was issued without first going through the due process required by American law, thus setting a “dangerous precedent”.

Confirming its lawyers were now busy preparing a response, TikTok stated: “We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the administration, then by the US courts”.

While the lawyers get busy with all that, talks continue regarding that somewhat simpler solution, ie the sale of TikTok’s American business. Microsoft remains the frontrunner in those sale talks, though it wants control of the app in multiple markets, not just the US. And possibly all markets other than China, where TikTok operates as Douyin.

Twitter is also said to be bidding, albeit only for the US. It would also likely need to find other investment partners to finance any acquisition.

It remains to be seen how both the legal battling and the sales talking go in the week ahead. But the one thing Trump definitely did last week is set a clear deadline for one or the other of those options to succeed. And now the clock is TikToking… tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.