TikTok Employee Ignores Chinese Control of ByteDance, U.S. Says

A TikTok employee who sued to stop President Donald Trump’s ban of the social media app in the U.S. is ignoring the Chinese government’s control over ByteDance Ltd., TikTok’s owner, the Trump administration said.

“It is well-recognized that large Chinese technology firms are not purely private, but in fact are intertwined with the Chinese Communist Party and the government of the People’s Republic of China,” the U.S. said Thursday in a filing in federal court in San Francisco.

ByteDance is a Chinese company “through and through,” and it’s subject to Chinese intelligence laws, the U.S. said. TikTok’s explosive growth in the U.S. and its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party makes it a direct threat to the privacy and security of Americans, according to the government.

Trump’s Aug. 6 executive order prohibits unspecified transactions with TikTok and ByteDance as well as with WeChat and that app’s Chinese owner Tencent Holdings Ltd., purportedly because the Chinese government can use the apps to spread misinformation, censor news that is critical of China and steal users’ private information. The Commerce Department is set to specify which transactions are prohibited by Sept. 20.

TikTok Inc., based in Culver City, California, has said it isn’t controlled by the Chinese government even though its parent company’s headquarters is in Beijing. The company argued that Trump’s ban on the app is motivated by election-year politics and that president harbors ill-will toward the app after users pranked his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by mass-ordering tickets and not showing up.

The company filed its own lawsuit to block Trump’s order in federal court in Los Angeles and said it will ask for an injunction once the Commerce Department has clarified the president’s executive order.

The case is Ryan v. Trump, 20-CV-05948, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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