TikTok Seeks Court Injunction Blocking Forced-Sale Law Ahead of September Oral Arguments

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TikTok is urging the court to block the enforcement of a forced-sale law that allegedly constitutes an outright ban. Photo Credit: Solen Feyissa

Ahead of September oral arguments in TikTok’s legal battle challenging the much-publicized forced-sale law, the app is mounting a vigorous defense – now including a demand for an injunction to prevent the measure from going into effect.

This demand came to light in hundreds of pages’ worth of filings, with addendum and appendix documents spanning north of 1,000 more pages. As most know, the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act that President Biden signed in April has set a January deadline (with a possible 90-day extension) for ByteDance to sell or shut down TikTok in the U.S.

Predictably, neither possible outcome is sitting right with the video-sharing giant, which promptly sued to challenge the law on First Amendment grounds. While the consolidated challenges are being fast-tracked to some extent, oral arguments, as initially mentioned, still won’t take place until mid-September under the current schedule.

Hardly standing idly by until then, TikTok and adjacent parties are now firing off petitioner briefs targeting the perceived unconstitutionality of the law, specifically seeking “an order permanently enjoining its enforcement” or, alternatively, a temporary enjoinment while the involved legal questions are answered in court.

The first of the just-submitted briefs spans a whopping 99 pages and focuses mainly on overarching arguments against the forced sale. For instance, the well-treaded topics here include the belief that the law effectively amounts to an outright ban because it’s logistically unworkable to offload TikTok solely in the States.

Also explored are the billions that the platform claims to have spent on stateside data security under “Project Texas” and the alleged lack of evidence that TikTok is used to spread propaganda.

“TikTok’s proprietary recommendation engine is critical to its success. … The Chinese government has made clear in public statements that it would not permit a forced divestment of the recommendation engine,” the text explains of one perceived reason why the law constitutes a full-scale ban in practice. “The effect of the Act is therefore a ban.”

More interesting yet is a similar-but-distinct brief, this time running 80 pages and centering on the forced-sale law’s alleged curtailment of individual creators’ free speech.

(Previously, it emerged that TikTok was bankrolling a creator-filed lawsuit opposing its ban in Montana; a federal judge temporarily blocked the relevant law before it took effect.)

Building on the point, the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act violates these TikTokers’ First Amendment rights by banning “a special medium of expression” and restricting their access to unique communication, information, and ideas.

And when it comes to lawmakers’ “purported desire to shield Americans from foreign propaganda,” the motivation “is not a legitimate purpose under the First Amendment,” according to the legal text.

“Nor is that interest supported by any evidence (much less substantial evidence) that any genuine threat exists,” the brief reads in part. “Finally, the Act does not materially or narrowly advance any interest in combatting foreign propaganda.”

Time will tell whether the sought injunction comes to fruition for TikTok, which, despite its uncertain U.S. future, is continuing to spearhead a variety of expansion initiatives in and beyond the music space.