SAN FRANCISCO – TikTok, the short-form viral video app, filed for an injunction against the Trump administration on Wednesday, a legal maneuver to protect the company's service in the US from a possible ban.
The request filed with the District Court of the District of Columbia is in response to the Department of Commerce's rules requiring Apple and Google to remove the TikTok app from their app stores for American users by Sunday and not provide any further software updates to those who do downloaded the app in the US.
TikTok, owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance, recently worked to secure a contract to keep operations in the US. In August, President Trump signed Executive Orders effectively obliging ByteDance to sell TikTok's U.S. operations or risk suspending its transactions in the country. The White House has positioned TikTok's American presence as a national security threat.
ByteDance and government officials worked for months to find a solution. On Saturday, Trump said he had "blessed" a proposed deal between TikTok, Oracle and Walmart, in which the two American companies would get a 20 percent stake in a new company called TikTok Global.
But Mr Trump said Monday that he would not approve a deal in which ByteDance still has an interest in the app. TikTok has announced that ByteDance will hold an 80 percent stake in the new TikTok Global until the app is released in about a year. Oracle announced that ByteDance would not own any of the apps directly. Instead, its investors would get shares in TikTok and have a direct stake in the app.
It remains to be seen whether the Chinese government will take steps to block a deal. Last month, Beijing announced new export restrictions that appeared to prohibit the sale of TikTok's valuable algorithm without a license, making a full takeover of the app by an American company less profitable.
ByteDance has now applied for such a license, the company said in a statement posted on its Toutiao News app, although it was previously announced that the proposed contract with Oracle and Walmart would not include a transfer of algorithms or technology.
On Wednesday, China Daily, the official English-language newspaper of the Chinese government, called the TikTok deal "dirty and unfair and based on bullying and extortion".
In its filing on Wednesday, TikTok requested that an expedited hearing for an injunction be held before the Sunday date. The company said it had "made extraordinary efforts to meet ever-changing government demands and alleged national security concerns."
"There is simply no real emergency here that would justify the government's abrupt measures," TikTok said on its file. "And there is no plausible reason to insist that the bans be enforced immediately."
The Justice Department declined to comment.
TikTok said banning its service would cause irreparable damage to the company. TikTok said the day before July 1, when rumors of a possible ban began to circulate, it added more than 400,000 new users and that its growth would be slowed if people were excluded from service.
David McCabe reported from Washington and Raymond Zhong from Taipei, Taiwan.