Trump approves U.S. TikTok proposal
TikTok’s owner asked a federal judge to temporarily block the Trump administration from removing the viral video-sharing network from U.S. app stores.
TikTok faces a deadline this weekend to get a sale of its U.S. operations approved or face a de facto ban in the U.S. stemming from an Aug. 6 executive order by President Donald Trump. Wednesday’s request for a preliminary injunction, filed by TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance Ltd., challenges new U.S. Commerce Department rules that would remove TikTok from app stores starting this month and require changes to its core functionality that the company says would effectively shut it down in the U.S. by mid-November.
ByteDance asked for a court hearing before the rules take effect at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 27 and proposed that both sides file additional briefs this week.
The Commerce Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The TikTok ban is part of a wider effort by the Trump administration to take a hard line against Beijing, betting that a tough approach will help win the president re-election. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has urged U.S. companies to bar Chinese applications from app stores as part of his “Clean Network” guidance designed to prevent authorities in China from accessing the personal data of U.S. citizens.
ByteDance argues that the Trump administration has exceeded its authority by moving to ban TikTok on national security grounds. Its filing echoes many of the arguments made by Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat, another Chinese-owned app that the White House has sought to ban. WeChat won its own preliminary injunction in California on Sept. 19, arguing that the ban infringed on its First Amendment rights and would cause irreparable harm to the company.
TikTok has “made extraordinary efforts to try to satisfy the government’s ever-shifting demands and purported national security concerns,” ByteDance said in its filing. “In the absence of preliminary injunctive relief, the August 6 order and the prohibitions will cause plaintiffs irreparable harm.”
The White House has argued that the app could allow the Chinese government to gain access to the personal data of millions of Americans. Trump’s order banning TikTok followed an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius, which reviews proposed acquisitions of domestic businesses by overseas investors for national security concerns. The prospect of a ban set off a flurry of attempted deal-making, pushing ByteDance to seek a sale of the video app’s American operations to a U.S. company.
Discord Over Deal
Trump has given his conditional blessing to a plan for Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. to take a stake in TikTok. But the arrangement is by no means finalized. Cfius still needs to sign off, as do officials in China, where the state-run news media have denounced the plan as “an American trap” and an “underhanded trick.”
There are also significant disagreements over the specifics of the deal. ByteDance says it plans to retain 80 per cent of TikTok Global, the new company that would result from the deal. Oracle says the company will be mostly owned by U.S. entities and that ByteDance “will have no ownership,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. responded on Wednesday to ByteDance’s request for the accelerated briefing schedule.
“There is no need for the parties (or for this court) to conduct emergency proceedings and wade into sensitive issues of national security and foreign policy on the basis of a limited record prepared on an extremely short time frame,” it said in a filing.