TikTok Users Sue Over Ban

John Lister's picture

It's no surprise TikTok has challenged a law that bans it operating in the US under Chinese ownership. But what wasn't expected was individual users suing to block the law.

The US government recently passed a law giving TikTok's Chinese-based owners ByteDance until January 19, 2025 to sell to a non-Chinese company. If it doesn't, app stores will be barred from distributing the app and hosting companies would not be allowed to serve the business.

TikTok says the deadline is so short and the conditions so strict that the law is effectively an outright ban. It's already started a legal challenge to the bill on First Amendment grounds. The US government counters that the move is necessary to protect national security.

Restriction of Free Speech

Now eight individual users have also launched a legal challenge to the bill, albeit with their legal costs covered by TikTok. They want an appeals court to declare it unconstitutional and stop the Attorney General from enforcing it. Such a verdict wouldn't be the end of the story as the constitutional issue would almost certainly wind up in the Supreme Court, but it would put the law on hold.

The users have follower counts in the hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions, specializing in videos on everything from skin care to ranching to Bible quizzes. They broadly argue against the law on First Amendment grounds, saying it would restrict their free speech. (Source: nytimes.com)

Legal Dilemma

The filing could lead to some fundamental debates about the First Amendment and technology. For example, the bill clearly does not stop the users posting content online. The users say posting on other sites is not as effective because TikTok's algorithm does the best job of connecting them with interested followers. That could mean that if they reach some users on TikTok that they can't or don't reach on other platforms, they're ability to express themselves to a particular individual has been limited.

The filing also disputes the argument that the law is about security rather than content and communication. They point to lawmakers who argued that some of the most pushed content on the site was propaganda. The users say that's evidence the law is indeed intended to restrict certain types of content.

Regardless of the outcome of the case, it could be too late to stop the law. The challenge will be held in the DC appeals court, which often takes more than a year to hear cases and reach a verdict. (Source: washingtonpost.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Do you support the ban? Do you believe it violates the First Amendment? Does it matter that the users have a wider reach on TikTok than other sites?

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