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TikTok Calls Ban Attempts by U.S. Government Unlawful by@legalpdf
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TikTok Calls Ban Attempts by U.S. Government Unlawful

by Legal PDFMay 9th, 2024
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TikTok's legal journey includes battles against unlawful government ban attempts, including executive orders and divestment orders. Dive into the complexities of CFIUS reviews, negotiations, and legal challenges as TikTok navigates the regulatory landscape.
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Tiktok Inc., and ByteDance LTD., v. Merrick B. Garland Update Court Filing, retrieved on May 7, 2024, is part of HackerNoon’s Legal PDF Series. You can jump to any part in this filing here. This part is 3 of 11.

B. The Government Previously Made Unlawful Attempts to Ban TikTok.

18. Petitioners’ efforts to address the U.S. government’s asserted concerns regarding the TikTok platform date back to 2019. At that time, Petitioners began engaging with CFIUS, which had initiated a review of ByteDance Ltd.’s 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly, another Internet-based video-sharing platform.


19. Petitioners were in the early stages of engaging with CFIUS on a voluntary basis to address the government’s concerns, when on August 6, 2020, President Trump abruptly issued an executive order purporting to ban TikTok under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”), 50 U.S.C. §§ 1701–08. See 85 Fed. Reg. 48,637 (the “Ban Order”). Two separate district courts preliminarily enjoined the Ban Order, concluding (among other things) that it exceeded the President’s IEEPA authority. TikTok Inc. v. Trump, 490 F. Supp. 3d 73, 83 (D.D.C. 2020); TikTok Inc. v. Trump, 507 F. Supp. 3d 92, 112 (D.D.C. 2020); Marland v. Trump, 498 F. Supp. 3d 624, 641 (E.D. Pa. 2020).


20. Specifically, as these courts correctly recognized, the President’s IEEPA authority “to deal with any unusual and extraordinary threat” to the nation “does not include the authority to regulate or prohibit, directly or indirectly . . . [any] personal communication” or the importation or exportation “of any information or informational materials.” 50 U.S.C. § 1702(b)(1), (3). These restrictions on the President’s IEEPA authority — which Congress expanded through multiple amendments to the statute — were designed “to prevent the statute from running afoul of the First Amendment.” United States v. Amirnazmi, 645 F.3d 564, 585 (3d Cir. 2011) (quotation marks omitted); see also Kalantari v. NITV, Inc., 352 F.3d 1202, 1205 (9th Cir. 2003) (IEEPA’s limitations necessary “to prevent the executive branch from restricting the international flow of materials protected by the First Amendment”); Marland, 498 F. Supp. 3d at 629 (same).


21. Looking to the foundational First Amendment principles codified in IEEPA’s text and legislative history, these courts concluded that President Trump’s efforts to ban TikTok violated the statute and raised “serious” constitutional questions (which were unnecessary to decide under the doctrine of constitutional avoidance). TikTok Inc., 507 F. Supp. 3d at 112 n.6; TikTok Inc., 490 F. Supp. 3d at 83 n.3. The courts granted the government’s motions to voluntarily dismiss its appeals after President Biden withdrew the Ban Order. See TikTok Inc. v. Biden, No. 20-5302, 2021 WL 3713550 (D.C. Cir. July 20, 2021); TikTok Inc. v. Biden, No. 20-5381, 2021 WL 3082803 (D.C. Cir. July 14, 2021); Marland v. Trump, No. 20-3322, 2021 WL 5346749 (3d Cir. July 14, 2021).


22. Separately, acting on a CFIUS referral, President Trump on August 14, 2020 issued an order under Section 721 of the Defense Production Act, 50 U.S.C. § 4565, purporting to direct ByteDance to divest from TikTok’s U.S. business and U.S. user data. 85 Fed. Reg. 51,297 (the “Divestment Order”). On November 10, 2020, Petitioners petitioned this Court for review of the Divestment Order and underlying CFIUS actions, arguing, among other things, that the government lacked jurisdiction under the statute. See Petition for Review, TikTok Inc. v. CFIUS, No. 20-1444 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 10, 2020). That petition was held in abeyance in February 2021 on the parties’ joint motion to allow the parties to negotiate a resolution. The government has filed status reports every 60 days since then, most recently on April 22, 2024. Those status reports have consistently reported that “[t]he parties continue to be involved in ongoing negotiations” and “[a]beyance continues to be appropriate.” See, e.g., Status Report, TikTok Inc. v. CFIUS, No. 20-1444 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 22, 2024).


23. Between January 2021 and August 2022, Petitioners and CFIUS engaged in an intensive, fact-based process to develop a National Security Agreement that would resolve the U.S. government’s concerns about whether Chinese authorities might be able to access U.S. user data or manipulate content on TikTok, as well as resolve the pending CFIUS dispute. During that time, Petitioners and government officials communicated regularly, often several times a week — including several in-person meetings — about the government’s concerns and potential solutions. The result was an approximately 90-page draft National Security Agreement with detailed annexes embodying a comprehensive solution addressing the government’s national security concerns. Notably, the draft National Security Agreement provided that all protected U.S. user data (as defined in the agreement) would be stored in the cloud environment of a U.S.-government-approved partner, Oracle Corporation, which would also review and vet the TikTok source code.


24. From Petitioners’ perspective, all indications were that they were nearing a final agreement. After August 2022, however, CFIUS without explanation stopped engaging with Petitioners in meaningful discussions about the National Security Agreement. Petitioners repeatedly asked why discussions had ended and how they might be restarted, but they did not receive a substantive response. In March 2023, without providing any justification for why the draft National Security Agreement was inadequate, CFIUS insisted that ByteDance would be required to divest the U.S. TikTok business.


25. Since March 2023, Petitioners have explained to CFIUS, in multiple written communications and in-person meetings, that a divestiture of the U.S. TikTok business from the rest of the integrated global TikTok platform and business of the sort now required by the Act is not feasible. CFIUS has never articulated any basis for disagreeing with that assessment, offering instead only a conclusory assertion that the reason ByteDance was not divesting was because it was simply unwilling to do so. The Act nonetheless incorporates precisely such an infeasible divestiture standard.



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This court case retrieved on May 7, 2024, from sf16-va.tiktokcdn.com is part of the public domain. The court-created documents are works of the federal government, and under copyright law, are automatically placed in the public domain and may be shared without legal restriction.