TikTok claimed that the rule violated the First Amendment by effectively deleting an app that millions of Americans use to express their views and communicate freely.
A view of TikTok’s office after the US House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill giving TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance roughly six months to divest the short-video app’s US assets or risk a ban, in Culver City, California. Reuters
TikTok and its parent firm ByteDance filed a complaint on Tuesday, claiming that the proposed ban violated the First Amendment by effectively banning an app that millions of Americans use to express their thoughts and communicate freely.


TikTok argued that the rule violated the First Amendment by effectively banning an app that millions of Americans use to express their thoughts and communicate freely. It also stated that divestiture was “simply not possible,” particularly given the law’s 270-day deadline, citing obstacles such as Beijing’s refusal to transfer a critical component that drives TikTok in the United States.

The battle for TikTok’s existence in the United States is expected to take place mostly in the courts during the next few months. The issue pits Congress’s national security concerns about the social media app’s ties to China against TikTok’s claim that a sale or ban would violate its users’ First Amendment free expression rights and harm small companies that rely on the site.

For years, politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed fear that Chinese authorities could force ByteDance to hand over user data from the United States or influence Americans by blocking or pushing specific TikTok material. The United States has yet to present public proof to back up those assertions, but political pressure has mounted regardless.

If maintained, legal experts argue that the law might set a precedent with far-reaching implications for digital media in the United States.

Here’s what you should know.

Is a TikTok ban unconstitutional?

That is the essential question. TikTok and opponents of the measure have contended that a ban would violate the First Amendment rights of the social media platform’s 170 million US users.

Patrick Toomey, deputy director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, previously told The Associated Press that a TikTok ban would “stifle free expression and restrict public access” to a network that has become a vital source of information sharing.

One of the important considerations will be whether the regulation interferes with the overall content of expression on TikTok. Elettra Bietti, an assistant professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University, highlighted that since the law’s approval last month, content-based limitations have received increased scrutiny.

“Congress has taken the unprecedented step of expressly singling out and banning TikTok: a vibrant online forum for protected speech and expression used by 170 million Americans to create, share, and view videos over the Internet,” ByteDance said in its lawsuit Tuesday. “For the first time in history, Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single, named speech platform to a permanent, nationwide ban, and bars every American from participating in a unique online community with more than 1 billion people worldwide.


TikTok has expressed confidence about the prospects of its legal challenge.

Rest assured, we aren’t going anywhere,” TikTok CEO Shou Chew said in a video response posted to X shortly after the legislation was signed into law on April 24. “The facts and the Constitution are on our side, and we expect to prevail again.” Toomey also said that he was optimistic about the possibility of TikTok being able to block the measure in court, noting that both users and the company “have extremely strong” First Amendment claims. “Many of the calls to completely ban TikTok in the U.S. are about scoring political points and rooted in anti-China sentiment,” Toomey added. “And to date, these steps to ban TikTok had not been remotely supported by concrete public evidence.

However, the future of any dispute is difficult to foresee, particularly in this type of case. From a legal standpoint, it can be difficult to use political objectives, even if they are well-documented, to invalidate a legislation.

According to Gus Hurwitz, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Carey statute School, the battle might go a long time, with the possibility of appeals going all the way to the Supreme Court, which would most likely maintain the statute given its current makeup.


TikTok’s legal case will not go uncontested. The administration would most likely reply with national-security claims, which were already publicly discussed as the law passed through Congress.

Toomey believes that the government has not satisfied the high standard required to demonstrate impending national-security dangers, but other legal experts argue that it still a strong hand to play.

“One of the unfortunate and really frustrating things about national-security legislation (is that) it tends to be a trump card,” Hurwitz stated. “Once national-security issues come up, they’re going to carry the day either successfully or not.”

Hurwitz said that he believes there are valid national-security arguments that may be raised here. He said that national security can be debated because it is a governmental measure. That distinguishes this scenario from prior failed state-level bills attempting to outlaw TikTok, such as in Montana.

However, national-security reasons are subject to questions as to why TikTok is receiving special attention.

“Personally, I believe that what TikTok does isn’t that different from other companies based in the United States,” Bietti added, referring to internet behemoths such as Google and Amazon. “The question is, ‘Why ban TikTok and not the activities and the surveillance carried out by other companies in the United States?'”

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