TikTok’s Legal Bet on the First Amendment

Legal experts say that TikTok has a chance of winning its legal challenge to a law that could force it to stop operating in the U.S.Credit…Craig Hudson/Reuters

TikTok takes its fight to court

TikTok fired the latest broadside in its battle with Washington, suing to block a law that could force the company to split from ByteDance, its Chinese owner, or face a ban in the U.S.

The company argues that the law violates the First Amendment by effectively killing an app in the U.S. that millions of Americans use to share their views. Another problem: a divestiture within 270 days is practically impossible, Sapna Maheshwari and David McCabe report for The Times.

DealBook spoke with Maheshwari about the lawsuit filed yesterday and what happens next.

Do legal experts think TikTok has a chance at winning?

It could go either way.

Alan Rozenshtein, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, says that a victory is possible based on the “very, very substantial First Amendment challenge” involved. But he emphasized that it isn’t a certainty.

The government can justify infringing on First Amendment rights in certain cases — especially in matters of national security — and it’s also offered ByteDance the option to sell the app.

How does the lawsuit address the accusation that TikTok is a national security risk?

TikTok has always said that it has spent billions on a security plan that has addressed the government’s concerns. But it also shared a bit of a bombshell in its filing: The company said it had agreed to offer the U.S. government a kill switch that would shut off the app if it violates terms of a draft national security agreement.

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