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TikTok has asked a federal court to stop Donald Trump’s ban of the social video app as it works to complete a deal that will meet government approval.
The motion for a preliminary injunction was filed Wednesday in Washington, D.C., after a suit came on Friday. (A similar case brought in California was concurrently dropped). The injunction bid comes as TikTok owner ByteDance faces a Sunday deadline to finalize an agreement with Oracle and Walmart that will allow it to keep operating in the United States. Separately, Chinese media outlets are reporting that its government might not sign off on the Oracle deal.
In its latest motion, TikTok argues that it has “made extraordinary efforts to try to satisfy the government’s ever-shifting demands and purported national security concerns, including through changes in the ownership and structure of [its] business, and [it is] continuing to do so.” TikTok contends that Trump has exceeded his presidential power in ordering the ban, which it says amounts to impermissible regulation of users’ “personal communications” and was not “motivated by a genuine national security concern, but rather by political considerations relating to the upcoming general election.”
Trump first ordered a TikTok ban on Aug. 6, justifying the action by expressing concern over the handling of American user data and requiring ByteDance to sell the business to an American owner to keep it operating domestically. The national security argument centers around the idea that because ByteDance is based in Beijing the company could be compelled to share user information with the Chinese government. TikTok has pushed back on those concerns, saying that it stores American user data on servers in the U.S. and Singapore.
After more than a month of negotiations, ByteDance entered into an agreement with Oracle and Walmart that it submitted before the U.S. government last week. Under the terms of that agreement, Oracle would become a tech partner for a new, U.S-based entity called TikTok Global. Combined, Oracle and Walmart would own about 20 percent of the business.
On Sept. 19, Trump told reported that he had given the deal his “blessing.” He also said that the deal would include a $5 billion fund for education. ByteDance later released a statement indicating that no just fund had been established.
ByteDance and Oracle further complicated the process when they released conflicting statements about how much of TikTok Global would continued to be owned by ByteDance. By Sept. 21, Trump said he would not approve of a deal in which ByteDance owned a piece of the business.
Amid this process, the original Sept. 20 deadline for the TikTok ban, which would prevent U.S. users from downloading the app onto their phones, was extended by one week.
TikTok argues that a shutdown, even one lifted within two months, would result in a drop off of between 40 percent and 50 percent of its daily active users, who would be unlikely to return, and a six-month ban would result in an 80 percent to 90 percent drop off. This amounts to irreparable harm, says the company.
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