As a deal deciding the fate of TikTok hangs in the balance, the Chinese-owned video app is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt the Trump administration’s order that would ban app stores from carrying TikTok in the U.S. as of Sept. 27.
TikTok alleges that Trump cited “national security” concerns as a pretext for trying to shut down the app in the absence of a deal to transfer ownership of TikTok to American buyers. The company, per its motion, claims the president was motivated “by political considerations relating to the upcoming general election.”
“There is simply no genuine emergency here that would justify the government’s precipitous actions,” TikTok said in the motion, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. “And there is no plausible reason to insist the prohibitions be enforced immediately.”
In response, the Justice Department told the court an emergency ruling in the case was “unnecessary and unwarranted.” The DOJ wants seven days to respond to TikTok’s lawsuit — which would push it well past Sunday night. “The Secretary of Commerce prohibited several transactions with respect to TikTok, but only one set of those prohibitions is scheduled to go into effect at 11:59 PM ET on Sunday, September 27, 2020,” the Justice Department notice said. “That set of prohibitions will effectively prevent new U.S. users from downloading TikTok, and will prevent existing U.S. users from receiving application updates, but will otherwise largely preserve the status quo with respect to Plaintiffs and their existing U.S. users.”
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The court set a hearing for 10 a.m. ET Thursday to discuss the issues of timing in the case.
TikTok is currently owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance. Late last week ByteDance reached a preliminary deal with Oracle and Walmart, which got a provisional OK from President Trump. But conflicting information from ByteDance and Oracle about who will control the new TikTok Global may derail the pact.
In the latest legal filing, TikTok asked for an expedited hearing for a preliminary injunction ahead of Sunday’s looming ban. The company claimed it has “made extraordinary efforts to try to satisfy the government’s ever-shifting demands and purported national security concerns.”
The Commerce Department originally set Sept. 20 for the TikTok download ban, before delaying the deadline to Sept. 27 given Trump’s preliminary approval. A total ban on Tencent’s WeChat app also was set to go into effect last Sunday, but a judge issued a temporary stay of that order on First Amendment grounds.
TikTok had previously sued Trump and the Commerce Department on Aug. 24, alleging the executive order forcing its sale violated TikTok’s constitutional right to due process.
The ByteDance deal with Oracle and Walmart still needs official U.S. and China government approval — and that might not happen. China Daily, the official English-language newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, said in an editorial Wednesday, “China has no reason to give the green light to such a deal, which is dirty and unfair and based on bullying and extortion.”
Separately, TiKTok announced Wednesday that it is banning ads for fasting apps and weight loss supplements, as well as increasing restrictions on ads that promote a “harmful and negative body image.” The company said it was partnering with the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) to provide resources to users directly from the app and will launch a dedicated page for NEDA’s #EndWeightHateCampaign to support Weight Stigma Awareness Week (Sept. 28-Oct. 2).