May 20, 2024 2 min read

TikTok wants its legal case against US “sell-or-be-banned” law fast-tracked

Both TikTok and a group of creators have filed lawsuits seeking to block the TikTok-targeting law recently passed by US Congress. With that law setting a deadline for TikTok to be sold or banned of 19 Jan 2025, TikTok and the creators want their lawsuits fast-tracked by the court

TikTok wants its legal case against US “sell-or-be-banned” law fast-tracked

TikTok has asked a Washington DC appeals court to fast-track its lawsuit that seeks to block the “sell-or-be-banned” law recently passed by US Congress. In that bid it is supported by the group of TikTok creators who have also gone legal over the ban and US Attorney General Merrick Garland, who is the defendant in both lawsuits. 

“The parties respectfully request that the court expedite briefing, argument and decision in this case”, legal papers filed on Friday read. All three parties argue that they meet the three criteria for having a case fast-tracked: first any delay will “cause irreparable injury”, second the decision under review “is subject to substantial challenge”, and third the general public “have an unusual interest in prompt disposition”. 

Under the law recently passed by Congress, TikTok’s China-based owner ByteDance has until 19 Jan 2025 to sell the app, otherwise it will be banned in the US. The law was prompted by concerns that the Chinese government has access to TikTok user data via ByteDance, something TikTok has repeatedly denied.

In their respective lawsuits, both TikTok and the group of TikTok creators argue that any sale of the app, even just within the US, is unfeasible. Therefore Congress has basically instigated a ban of TikTok which, it is claimed, violates free speech protections in the First Amendment of the US Constitution. 

If the ban goes into effect, TikTok argues, it will clearly “face irreparable harm”. Meanwhile the TikTok creators will also “suffer irreparable harm because the act violates their First Amendment right to create, share and receive content through their chosen platform, TikTok”. 

Both TikTok and the creators also “maintain that the act is subject to substantial challenge” for the reasons they set out in their respective lawsuits. And, “in light of the large number of users of the TikTok platform, the public at large has a significant interest in the prompt disposition of this matter”. 

With the “sell-or-be-banned” law setting a deadline of 19 Jan 2025, obviously all parties would like a ruling on this dispute before that date. However, as it seems likely whichever party loses will then want to take the case to the US Supreme Court, ideally a ruling from the DC court of appeal is needed sooner. 

In last week’s legal filing, a ruling by 6 Dec this year is proposed, which still seems quite some way away, but that’s a pretty fast turnaround in the context of court cases. 

To achieve that, it is proposed TikTok and the creators would submit written opening briefs to the court in June, Gardland’s offices would respond in July, allowing TikTok and the creators to respond to the government’s position in August. Oral arguments would then take place on “a date as early as practicable in the court’s September 2024 sitting”.  

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