TikTok’s Lawsuit Against US Government Drives First Amendment Debate

TikTok’s legal battle against the United States government over a law that would force the sale of the popular app or result in a nationwide ban is a significant development in the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China regarding internet and technology.

The lawsuit filed by TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit argues that the law violates the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

This four-year battle over TikTok is just one aspect of the broader conflict between the two nations. In April, Apple said China had ordered it to remove Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China over Chinese national security concerns.

TikTok has invested heavily in measures to protect the data of U.S. users, spending $2 billion and making additional commitments in a 90-page draft National Security Agreement developed through negotiations with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), according to the lawsuit. The agreement included a “shut-down option” that would give the U.S. government the authority to suspend TikTok in the United States if it violates certain obligations.

Despite these efforts the lawsuit claims that in March 2023 CFIUS “insisted that ByteDance would be required to divest the U.S. TikTok business.” The ongoing legal battle highlights the complex and often contentious relationship between the U.S. and China when it comes to internet and technology issues.