TikTok outlines past efforts to address U.S. concerns about a potential ban

TikTok explained Thursday why it believes a new federal law that could lead to a ban on the popular video app in January is unconstitutional, calling the legislation an “extraordinary restriction on free speech.”

The company said Congress has not given the law — which would force TikTok's Chinese owner to sell the popular social media app or face a ban in the United States — with nearly enough scrutiny and attention.

TikTok made the arguments in a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where the company sued to block the law in May.

“This law represents a radical departure from this country's tradition of supporting an open Internet and sets a dangerous precedent that allows political branches to target an unfavorable speech platform and force it to sell or be shut down,” the company in Thursday's statement.

The company also said it was unclear whether Congress had considered the company's efforts to reach a compromise with the Biden administration. To support its case, the company released a series of documents about numerous confidential meetings and other interactions with senior federal officials, almost all of them shrouded in secrecy.

The new documents include a 90-page proposal from TikTok on how it plans to address American national security officials' concerns about the app, including concerns that the Chinese government could use it to spread propaganda or collect sensitive user data.

The Biden administration has never blessed TikTok's proposal, known as Project Texas, despite much back-and-forth with the company.

TikTok also released a letter containing the dates and details of several meetings the company held last year with members of a secret committee known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS.

The new law was signed by President Biden in April after rapid and mostly bipartisan support in Congress. It requires TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, to find a government-approved non-Chinese buyer by mid-January.

The law could upend the future of an app that has 170 million users in the United States and touches virtually every aspect of American life.

TikTok sued the government in May, setting off a fight that many legal experts say will likely end up in the Supreme Court. The government is expected to provide material to support its case by July 26. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Sept. 16.

The US government has shared its most serious national security concerns involving TikTok behind closed doors, including classified briefings with members of Congress.

The company said it offered extraordinary commitments to the U.S. government to address its concerns, including third-party monitoring of TikTok content and an “option to shut down” if the company violated the terms of a security agreement .

The document sheds new light on TikTok's talks with CFIUS, a group of federal agencies that examines investments by foreign entities in American companies. These interactions have been largely shrouded in secrecy for the past two years.

Before the law was passed, TikTok was in limbo as the committee considered whether to approve its security plan.

The documents show that TikTok's lawyers and the Biden administration have discussed the feasibility of a sale and the possibility of the company moving its underlying code from China starting at least March 2023. A couple of months later, the company said , gave a presentation to the Treasury Department that emphasized “that the positions of the U.S. government and the Chinese government were absolutely incompatible, putting society in an impossible position.”

The documents suggest that the last in-person meeting between TikTok and CFIUS occurred in September. It included “another technical discussion” about the challenges of moving the underlying coding out of China. The company said it heard little from management afterward.

TikTok lawyers wrote to a Justice Department official after the new law was introduced in March, saying the company feared that “CFIUS had been compromised by political demagoguery in this matter.”

The Justice Department said in a statement that it looks forward to defending the legislation, which it says “addresses critical national security concerns in a manner consistent with the First Amendment and other constitutional limitations.”

“Along with other members of our intelligence community and Congress, the Department of Justice has consistently warned of the threat of autocratic nations that can weaponize technology – like the apps and software that run on our phones – to use against of us,” reads the statement. “This threat is compounded when those autocratic nations require companies under their control to secretly hand over sensitive data to the government.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *