TikTok exploring 'all remedies' to safeguard 'rule of law' in US ban

Chinese mobile app maker has condemned the Trump administration's executive order, which it says was issued without any due process, and pledges to pursue all possible actions to ensure "the rule of law is not discarded".
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

TikTok has condemned the Trump administration's executive order to ban the popular Chinese social media app, pledging to explore all possible actions to ensure "the rule of law is not discarded". It describes the US move as one that lacked due process and based on unsubstantiated information. 

Expressing "shock" over the executive order, TikTok said in a statement Friday it had reached out to the US government for almost a year in efforts to resolve concerns it had over data security. "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," it said. 

US President Donald Trump this week signed two executive orders barring any US transaction with TikTok, its parent company ByteDance, and its subsidiaries, as well as with popular Chinese messaging app WeChat and its parent company Tencent. The orders would take effect in 44 days. TikTok has hit more than 175 million downloads in the US, and 800 million worldwide, while WeChat has more than 1.2 billion monthly active users across the globe.

Trump had alleged that apps developed in China threatened his country's national security, foreign policy, and economy. "TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories," the order noted. "This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans' personal and proprietary information, potentially allowing China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct espionage."

In its statement, TikTok noted that it had been willing to work with the relevant officials to identify a solution that could benefit its users and partners, amongst others, as well as the broader US community. However, there had been no due process or adherence to the law on the part of the US government. 

Instead, the administration had relied on unnamed reports that carried no citations and played up fears, which had "no substantiation", that the app might be used misinformation campaigns. 

The US also had cited concerns about the collection of data that was "industry standard" for thousands of mobile apps available in the market today, the app maker said. 

"We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government or censored content at its request. In fact, we make our moderation guidelines and algorithm source code available in our transparency center, which is a level of accountability no peer company has committed to. We even expressed our willingness to pursue a full sale of the US business to an American company." 

It said Trump's executive order risked undermining global businesses' trust in the US government's adherence to the rule of law and set a "dangerous precedent" for free expression and open markets. 

"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," TikTok said.

Adding that 100 million Americans used its platform, the company called on its users and partners to made their voice heard to their elected government representatives as well as the White House. 

Microsoft earlier confirmed it was in discussions with ByteDance to acquire TikTok's operations in the US as well as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and was looking to complete its negotiations before September 15. Trump had suggested the US government should receive a "substantial" cut of the acquisition for "making it possible".

In an earlier statement this week, TikTok unveiled new measures it said aimed to stem misinformation and content designed to disrupt the US elections in November. These included updates to its policies for better clarity on what was and was not allowed on its platform and wider collaboration with fact-checking partners as well as the US Department of Homeland Security, such as on efforts to verify election-related information, in-app reporting of election misinformation, and safeguard against foreign interference. 


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