TikTok and its employees prepare to fight Trump over app ban


PTI, Aug 14, 2020, 10:40 AM IST

Washington: TikTok and its US employees are planning to take President Donald Trump’s administration to court over his sweeping order to ban the popular video app, according to a lawyer preparing one of the lawsuits.

The employees’ legal challenge to Trump’s executive order will be separate from a pending lawsuit from the company that owns the app, though both will argue that the order is unconstitutional, said Mike Godwin, an internet policy lawyer representing the employees.

Trump last week ordered sweeping but vague bans on dealings with the Chinese owners of TikTok and messaging app WeChat, saying they are a threat to US national security, foreign policy and the economy.

The TikTok order would take effect in September, but it remains unclear what it will mean for the apps’ 100 million US users, many of them teenagers or young adults who use it to post and watch short-form videos.

It’s also unclear if it will make it illegal for TikTok to pay its roughly 1,500 workers in the US, which is why some of them came to Godwin for help, he said. The order would prohibit “any transaction by any person” with TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance.

“Employees correctly recognize that their jobs are in danger and their payment is in danger right now,” Godwin said.

TikTok said in a statement last week that it was “shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process.” It declined to comment on Thursday on whether it is pursuing its own lawsuit.

“We have no involvement with and are not coordinating on” the employee-led initiative, said TikTok spokeswoman Hilary McQuaide said via email. “We respect the rights of employees to engage in concerted activity to seek due process of law,” she added.

The Fifth and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution safeguard life, liberty, and property from arbitrary government action lacking “due process of law.”

Microsoft is in talks to buy parts of TikTok, in a potential sale that’s being forced under Trump’s threat of a ban.

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