SAN FRANCISCO — TikTok sued the US government Monday, accusing the Trump administration of depriving it of due process when President Trump used his emergency economic powers to issue an executive order that will block the app from operating in the country.
The suit, which was filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, is TikTok’s most direct challenge to the White House and escalates an increasingly bitter back-and-forth between the popular video app and US officials.
Trump has repeatedly said TikTok, which is owned by Chinese Internet company ByteDance, poses a national security threat because of its Chinese ties. On Aug. 6, he issued twin executive orders banning transactions with TikTok and Chinese social media app WeChat within 45 days. A week later, he issued a separate executive order giving ByteDance 90 days to divest from its US assets and any data that TikTok had gathered in the United States.
“We do not take suing the government lightly; however we feel we have no choice but to take action to protect our rights, and the rights of our community and employees,” the company said in its suit. “Our more than 1,500 employees across the U.S. pour their hearts into building this platform every day,” the company said, noting that it planned to hire more than 10,000 more workers across eight states in the coming years.
Relations between the United States and China have soured in recent months over rifts in geopolitics, technology, and trade. The campaign has been partly provoked by China’s more assertive posture but also Trump’s desire to convince voters that he is tough on China.
As part of that, Trump’s advisers have zeroed in on technology companies that they say are beholden to the Chinese government through security laws, including ByteDance, Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei, and Internet company Tencent, the owner of WeChat.
Trump’s first executive order against TikTok draws its legal authority from the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which allows the president to regulate economic transactions in a national emergency. Past administrations have used it to punish foreign governments, as well as drug kingpins and hackers, but have never used it against a global technology company.
Jason M. Waite, a partner at law firm Alston & Bird, said that courts would probably be reluctant to challenge the president on national security grounds. But if a court does decide to rule against Trump, that could end up curtailing the powers of the presidency.
“I do think the US should be concerned about having to defend IEEPA actions and the impact that could have on the authority of a future president,” Waite said.
TikTok said in a blog post explaining the grounds for its lawsuit that the Trump administration “failed to follow due process and act in good faith, neither providing evidence that TikTok was an actual threat, nor justification for its punitive actions.” The company also claimed that the purported national security threat identified by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States was based on “outdated news articles” and did not address the documentation provided by TikTok demonstrating the security of user data.