TikTok has asked a federal judge to prevent the Trump administration from blocking downloads of the video-sharing app starting on Sunday, as its parent company ByteDance nears a deadline for resolving the app’s future in the US.
The company’s plea for a preliminary injunction, filed in district court in Washington, argues the administration’s orders preventing downloads from Apple and Google’s app stores “dramatically exceed” the commerce department and president’s power under US law.
The commerce department order is due to take effect this Sunday, after having been delayed by a week last Saturday.
TikTok’s removal from app stores has been seen as an informal deadline for a proposed restructuring deal in which ByteDance, the Chinese owner of the video-sharing app, plans to hand a minority stake to two US companies, Oracle and Walmart, and make other changes to satisfy the Trump administration.
TikTok has “made extraordinary efforts to try to satisfy the government’s ever-shifting demands and purported national security concerns, including through changes in the ownership and structure of their business, and they are continuing to do so”, it said in the filing.
The company further argued the administration’s prohibitions “were not motivated by a genuine national security concern, but rather by political considerations relating to the upcoming general election”.
In response to TikTok, US government attorneys said an emergency hearing was “unnecessary and unwarranted”, arguing the company had delayed in submitting its request.
The White House and Department of Justice both declined to comment.
TikTok’s request marks the latest development in a turbulent stretch of deal negotiations that has exposed rifts between Chinese and US parties to the proposed restructuring.
Over the weekend President Donald Trump “conceptually” backed ByteDance’s proposal for a restructured TikTok Global, to be headquartered in the US.
However, contrasting statements made by the US companies and ByteDance about the ownership and control of TikTok Global have raised fresh concerns that the Trump administration may ultimately reject the proposal.
This week Oracle said ByteDance would have “no ownership in TikTok Global”, while the Chinese company said it would have an 80 per cent stake.
Mr Trump said on Monday that he would block the deal if Oracle did not have control of TikTok Global. “If we find out that they don’t have total control, then we’re not going to approve the deal,” the president said on the Fox News channel.
The commerce department order issued on Friday last week would have removed TikTok and the Tencent-owned messaging app WeChat from Apple and Google’s app stores starting at midnight on Sunday. Commerce delayed the order relating to TikTok because of Mr Trump’s comment that he had granted preliminary approval to ByteDance’s deal.
Under a separate executive order issued by Mr Trump earlier this year, any deal must receive final approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US before November 12 to avoid a full ban of the app.
On Sunday a California judge temporarily blocked the WeChat order, finding merit in the argument that the ban would infringe upon free speech rights.
Banning the apps from app stores would not block existing users from accessing the services, but without the ability to receive software updates, quality of service would quickly degrade.
Additional reporting by Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington