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TikTok, US employees set to sue Trump over app ban

A TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Chinese owner of social media app, TikTok and its American employees are planning to sue US President Donald Trump’s administration over a ban on the popular video-sharing service.

Last week, Trump issued executive orders that would ban TikTok and WeChat from operating in the US if they are not sold by their Chinese-owned parent companies within 45 days.

According to Mike Godwin, a lawyer who represents the employees, their legal challenge to Trump's executive order will be separate from a pending lawsuit from Chinese parent company ByteDance.

“Employees correctly recognize that their jobs are in danger and their payment is in danger right now,” said Godwin.

It is not clear if Trump’s order will make it illegal for TikTok to pay its roughly 1,500 workers in the US, he said.

“We have to proceed very quickly,” Godwin said. “If we wait around for the order to be enforced, which it will be on September 20, then the workers will lose their chances to be paid.”

The order would prohibit “any transaction by any person” with TikTok and ByteDance.

TikTok said last week that it was “shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process.”

The app said in a statement that it spent nearly a year trying to engage in "good faith" with Washington to address its concerns.

"What we encountered instead was that the administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses," it said.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, however, defended Trump’s order, saying he was exercising his emergency authority under a 1977 law enabling the president to regulate international commerce to address unusual threats.

“The administration is committed to protecting the American people from all cyber threats and these apps collect significant amounts of private data on users,” said McEnany, adding that the Chinese government can access and use such data.

According to reports, the Trump administration was forcing ByteDance to hand over TikTok's US operations to a US firm, namely, Microsoft.

The US has long been using national security concerns as an excuse to impose a ban on Chinese communication apps and technologies.

It has already targeted Chinese tech companies, including telecom giant Huawei, over allegations of security threats.

The US alleged that Beijing could use the company’s equipment for espionage. Huawei, however, has repeatedly denied those claims.

Relations between Washington and Bijing have hit the lowest level in decades under Trump, mainly due to a bitter trade war between the two world powers.

Trump, who is trying to cut the trade deficit with China by imposing tariffs on Chinese products, is forcing some American companies to rethink keeping operations in China, as well.

Economists say Trump is concerned over the rise of new companies in the world, which has become a competitive arena for great powers.

They estimate that China will overtake the US as the largest economy in 10 to 15 years.

The US economy shrank 5 percent in the first three months of this year marking its sharpest decline since the financial crisis of 2008, as most US states went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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