First Amendment Issue: TikTok Users File Lawsuit Against US Government Over Ban Of The Social Media Platform

Reclaim The Net

(Reclaim The Net) Eight TikTok content creators have launched a lawsuit against the US government, challenging a new federal law that could potentially ban the social media platform nationwide. This legal action, echoing TikTok’s own lawsuit filed this month, asserts that the law infringes on the creators’ First Amendment rights to free speech. The outcome of this case could ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs represent a broad group, including a rancher from Texas who has featured in TikTok ads, an Arizona creator who advocates for “LGBTQ” issues, and a business owner who sells skincare products through TikTok Shop. They argue that TikTok is crucial for their expression, education, advocacy, and livelihoods. “They have found their voices, amassed significant audiences, made new friends, and encountered new and different ways of thinking — all because of TikTok’s novel way of hosting, curating, and disseminating speech,” the lawsuit states. The creators contend that the new law would strip them and others of this unique platform for communication.

We obtained a copy of the lawsuit for you here.

TikTok is financing the legal expenses for this lawsuit, which was filed in the US Court of Appeals for Washington, DC, by the same law firm that contested Montana’s ban on the platform last year—a ban that was blocked by a judge.

The Department of Justice defends the legislation, claiming it addresses significant national security concerns in a manner consistent with constitutional rights. US lawmakers and officials have raised concerns about the security of user data and the potential for TikTok to manipulate content on behalf of China, or allow China to spy on users; allegations that TikTok denies.

Under the new law, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, must sell its US stakes within nine months, with a possible three-month extension if a sale is underway. Despite this, TikTok and ByteDance argue in their lawsuit that divesting the US operations is unfeasible, predicting a complete shutdown by January 19, 2025. They emphasize that separating the US platform from the global network would be impractical and that the Chinese government, which must approve any sale, opposes selling the recommendation algorithm central to TikTok’s success.

Related: The Dangerous Language and First Amendment Challenges of the Rushed Anti-TikTok Bill

Brian Firebaugh, a rancher from Hubbard, Texas, is among the creators suing the government. Starting his TikTok account in 2020, he leveraged the platform to market his cattle-related products, amassing over 430,000 followers and transforming it into a full-time income. TikTok has also enabled him to foster an online community, participate in a Netflix show, and afford adoption for his son.

Chloe Joy Sexton, another plaintiff, is a content creator from Memphis, Tennessee, who turned to TikTok after losing her job four years ago. Her cookie business, Chloe’s Giant Cookies, gained traction on TikTok, where she now has over 2 million followers.

The creators seek a court declaration deeming the law unconstitutional and an injunction to prevent Attorney General Merrick Garland from enforcing it, advocating for their rights to freely express themselves and sustain their livelihoods through TikTok.

Here are key points from the lawsuit:

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