TikTok Influencers Sue US Government Over Existential Threat to Platform

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In what is being framed as a colossal litigious face-off, eight influential TikTok influencers have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government over new legislation that threatens to ban the widely popular social media platform if its China-based parent company ByteDance fails to divest its assets within a year.

The lawsuit comes as these creators vehemently argue that this new law infringes on their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, echoing a claim that TikTok itself raised in a separate lawsuit against these projected regulations just last week.

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Such is the magnitude of the complaint that it could ultimately be decided at the apex of the U.S. judiciary – the Supreme Court.

A diverse group forms the alliance of appellants. They include a Texas-based rancher who once starred in a TikTok commercial, an Arizona-based creator who uses the platform to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues and record his day-to-day life, and a businesswoman who sells skincare products through TikTok’s built-in e-commerce functionality, TikTok Shop.

The lawsuit surmises that these creators have used TikTok as an avenue to express themselves creatively, learn, advocate for various causes, share personal opinions, form vibrant communities, and, in some instances, earn a living. They declare that through TikTok, they have found their voice, reached significant audiences, made new friends, and experienced new facets of life, safeguarded by TikTok’s innovative approach to hosting, curating, and sharing content. The proposed legislation, the lawsuit states, would strip them and other Americans of this unique channel for expression and communication.

TikTok spokesperson has confirmed that the company was shouldering the legal expenses for this lawsuit, pursued in a Washington appeals court. Leading the lawsuit is the acclaimed law firm that previously represented creators who contested Montana’s statewide ban on the app last year.

The Department of Justice remains steadfast, arguing that such an action against TikTok addresses certain “critical national security concerns,” aligning with First Amendment and other constitutional limits. They have assured they would justly defend the legislation in court.

The legislation is a result of an intense strategic feud between the U.S. and China encompassing an array of issues, including China’s backing of Russia in Ukraine’s invasion. U.S. lawmakers and officials have expressed concerns over the integrity of TikTok’s data security against potential exploitation by Chinese authorities and the platform’s potential to disseminate pro-China content – claims that TikTok strongly disputes.

According to the law, ByteDance is obliged to sell TikTok to an approved buyer within nine months, with a three-month extension granted if a sale is underway.

However, ByteDance and TikTok attested in their lawsuit they would have no option but to wind up operations by January 19th because it would be commercially, technologically, and legally infeasible to continue operations in the U.S.

The creators involved in the lawsuit view the impending blow from these new laws as an existential threat to their virtual existence. For instance, the rancher from Texas built a successful online brand through his TikTok account and quit his full-time job, thriving off his TikTok earnings. Another creator, a cookie business woman from Tennessee, used the platform to effectively cope with her mother’s demise, turning her life around by growing a 2-million followers base over four years.

These creators are earnestly seeking the court to declare that the law infringes on their constitutional rights and to block Attorney General Merrick Garland from enforcing it.