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TikTok content creators are suing the US government over a law that could ban the popular platform



TikTok content creators are suing the US government over a law that could ban the popular platform

Eight TikTok content creators sued the U.S. government on Tuesday, launching a new challenge to the new federal law that would ban the popular social media platform nationwide if its China-based parent company does not sell its shares within a year.

Lawyers for the creators argued in the lawsuit that the law violates users’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, echoing legal arguments TikTok made in a separate lawsuit the company filed last week. The legal challenge could end before the Supreme Court.

The complaint filed Tuesday comes from a diverse group of content creators, including a Texas-based farmer who has previously appeared in a TikTok commercial, an Arizona creator who uses TikTok to showcase his daily life and raise awareness about LGBTQ issues, as well as a business owner who sells skincare products on TikTok Shop, the platform’s e-commerce arm.

The lawsuit said the creators “rely on TikTok to express themselves, learn, advocate for causes, share opinions, create communities, and even earn a living.”

“They have found their voices, amassed significant audiences, made new friends, and discovered new and different ways of thinking – all thanks to TikTok’s new way of organizing, curating, and distributing speeches,” it added, with arguing that the new law would deprive them and the rest of the country “of this distinctive means of expression and communication.”

A TikTok spokesperson said the company was covering legal costs for the lawsuit, which was filed in a Washington appeals court. It is led by the same law firm that represented creators who challenged Montana’s statewide ban on the platform last year. In November, a judge blocked the entry into force of this law.

The federal law comes at a time of intense strategic rivalry between the U.S. and China over a host of issues and as the two have continued to butt heads over sensitive geopolitical topics such as China’s support for Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. US lawmakers and other government officials have raised concerns about how well TikTok can protect users’ data from Chinese authorities and have argued that the algorithm could be used to spread pro-China propaganda, which TikTok disputes.

Under the law, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance would have to sell the platform to an approved buyer within nine months. If a sale is in progress, the company will be given a three-month extension to complete the deal.

However, TikTok and ByteDance weighed in their trial last week that they would still have no choice but to close on January 19, as continuing their operations in the US would not be commercially, technologically or legally possible.

They claimed it would be impossible for ByteDance to spin off its US TikTok platform as a separate entity from the rest of TikTok, which has 1 billion users worldwide – most of them outside the United States. A TikTok available only in the U.S. would function as an island separate from the rest of the world, the lawsuit states. It also said that the Chinese government – which would have to approve such a sale – has “made it clear” that it would not allow the sale of the recommendation algorithm that populates users’ feeds and that it “has been key to its success of TikTok in the United States’. States.”

In an interview, Brian Firebaugh, the Hubbard, Texas-based rancher who is part of the creator lawsuit, said he started his TikTok account in 2020 to help establish his brand and promote the livestock-related products he sells online on the to market. That decision allowed him to quit his full-time job and live off the income he earned from TikTok, where he currently has more than 430,000 followers.

Firebaugh, 44, says TikTok has also helped him build an online community with other farmers and given him the opportunity to participate in a reality show on Netflix, where his winnings allowed him and his wife to navigate the adoption process for their son pay. Losing TikTok, he said, would disrupt everything.

“One hundred percent of our customers come from TikTok,” Firebaugh said. “To make that go away, you are now stealing money from my family’s mouth.”

Chloe Joy Sexton, a 29-year-old content creator who lives in Memphis, Tennessee and runs a cookie company called Chloe’s Giant Cookies, said she started experimenting with TikTok four years ago after losing her previous job. Sexton said she posted content on other social media platforms, but only TikTok created a viral trajectory for her bakes. Today, she has more than 2 million followers on the app, where she has also shared more intimate details about her life, such as the loss of her mother to brain cancer and the subsequent adoption of her sister.

“There is no evidence whatsoever that my information or anyone else’s information is compromised,” said Sexton, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “Nobody provided that – not the government, not anyone else. And to base this purchase, this tug-of-war that changes my life from a hypothetical scenario is so hurtful to me personally because my government is not protecting me at the time.

The creators are asking the court to issue a statement saying the law is unconstitutional and an order that would prevent Attorney General Merrick Garland from enforcing it. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.