TikTok Owner ByteDance Threatens to Sue Trump Administration as US Calls for Broader Ban of Chinese Tech

(Source: Forbes)

TikTok’s parent company ByteDance released a statement on Friday in response to the executive order banning US companies and individuals from doing business with it, threatening to resort to the American justice system in order to get “fair treatment.” The statement came after US President Donald Trump Thursday night ordered an unspecified ban on transactions with Chinese owned apps including TikTok and WeChat, citing national security concerns.

“We are shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process,” TikTok said. “What we encountered instead was that the Administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.” TikTok suggested that the executive order was unlawful and claimed that it “sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets.”

TikTok also said in the statement it has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request. “We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the Administration, then by the US courts.”

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In the order, President Trump accused WeChat and TikTok of allowing the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information, keeping tabs on Chinese citizens living in the US, and carrying out disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party. The president also said that the spread of mobile applications developed and owned by Chinese companies continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the Trump Administration has expanded “the Clean Network” program, a ban on Chinese tech first rolled out in April, to further purge Chinese tech companies from America’s internet. The government would expand the US crackdown on Chinese technology to personal apps, citing alleged security threats and calling out TikTok and WeChat by name.

In the order, President Trump accused WeChat and TikTok of allowing the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information, keeping tabs on Chinese citizens living in the US, and carrying out disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party. The president also said that the spread of mobile applications developed and owned by Chinese companies continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the Trump Administration has expanded “the Clean Network” program, a ban on Chinese tech first rolled out in April, to further purge Chinese tech companies from America’s internet. The government would expand the US crackdown on Chinese technology to personal apps, citing alleged security threats and calling out TikTok and WeChat by name.

Six elements of The Clean Network Initiatives (Source: @SecPompeo/Twitter)

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Pompeo announced five elements to protect carrier networks and infrastructure in the US, including telecoms carriers, cloud services, undersea cables, apps, and app stores. The upgraded Clean Network Initiative involves network operators, hardware manufacturers, cloud storage providers, undersea fiber optic cable makers and many other fields that Chinese tech companies have been participating in. If the ban comes into effect, major Chinese tech giants including China Unicom, Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, Huawei, ZTE, ByteDance, JOYY, among others will all take hit.

ByteDance has been talking with Microsoft, the potential buyer of TikTok’s US operation, after efforts to prove the app’s independence and transparency fell out. On Tuesday, ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming issued an internal letter confirming the sale could be “inevitable”, while suggesting what the US wanted in the first place was a full ban of TikTok.