TikTok Users Are Mad as Hell – And They’re Suing the Government to Prove It

Kaspars Grinvalds / shutterstock.com
Kaspars Grinvalds / shutterstock.com

This week, eight TikTok creators—clearly unwilling to lose their precious stage for lip-syncing and dance-offs—filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government. They’re throwing a fit over a shiny new federal law that demands ByteDance, TikTok’s China-based overlord, sell the app within a year or kiss their followers goodbye with a national ban.

The creators, backed by the same attorneys who’ve already previously contested a similar state ban, argue that the law infringes on their First Amendment rights. In April, President Joe Biden signed legislation that requires ByteDance to find a buyer for the popular short-form video app or be banned. The legislation, the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, received bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.

This new lawsuit mirrors arguments made by TikTok itself in a separate legal action initiated last week. TikTok says that the bill breaks the First Amendment. The company’s legal filing states that divesting is “simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally.”

The ongoing dispute has the potential to escalate to the Supreme Court.

The lawsuit brought by TikTok content creators was filed in a Washington appeals court. The lawsuit includes plaintiffs such as a Texas rancher featured in a TikTok advertisement, an Arizona creator focusing on LGBTQ advocacy, and a business owner who utilizes TikTok’s e-commerce platform to sell skincare products. These creators claim reliance on TikTok for expression, advocacy, community building, and livelihood, stating that the law would strip them and others in the U.S. of a unique communication medium.

TikTok has confirmed that it’s picking up the tab for this lawsuit, ensuring its beloved creators can keep fighting the good fight against Uncle Sam. The legal crusade is spearheaded by a firm with a track record, having previously dismantled Montana’s attempt to ban TikTok last November. In that instance, a judge promptly blocked the law before it even took effect, showcasing the firm’s prowess in keeping the TikTok dance party going.

Amid this legal drama, we have the ever-tense backdrop of U.S.-China relations, where U.S. officials are in an uproar over data privacy and the specter of Chinese propaganda infiltrating TikTok—claims TikTok, of course, rolls its eyes at. According to the contentious law, ByteDance has nine months to dump its U.S. TikTok operations onto a government-approved buyer, with a potential three-month grace. Many companies have expressed interest in TikTok, including Meta and Microsoft.

In their lawsuit, both TikTok and ByteDance argued that a divestiture leading to a standalone U.S. TikTok would be nonviable commercially, technologically, and legally. They contend that without access to the global network and key algorithms—unlikely to be approved for sale by the Chinese government—TikTok could not operate effectively in the U.S.

One plaintiff, Brian Firebaugh from Hubbard, Texas, credits TikTok with enabling him to leave his job and support his family through online sales related to his ranching business. With over 430,000 followers, Firebaugh highlighted the platform’s critical role in his professional and personal life, including helping fund his son’s adoption process through a reality show appearance.

Another plaintiff, Chloe Joy Sexton from Memphis, Tennessee, turned to TikTok to boost her cookie business after job loss and personal tragedies. Sexton, who has over 2 million followers, expressed her concerns about the lack of evidence suggesting any risk to her data privacy, criticizing the government’s actions as baseless and harmful interference in her life.

The plaintiffs seek a judicial declaration that the law is unconstitutional and an injunction to prevent the Attorney General from enforcing it. The Department of Justice has yet to comment on the matter.