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TikTok creators successfully block U.S. app ban with lawsuit

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 10/30/2020 Rachel Lerman
a close up of a sign: A second TikTok ban, set to take effect Nov. 12, has been halted by a judge in Pennsylvania. © Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images A second TikTok ban, set to take effect Nov. 12, has been halted by a judge in Pennsylvania.

SAN FRANCISCO — TikTok has again been spared a ban in the United States, this time by a judge in Pennsylvania who granted a temporary halting of the restrictions against the video app that were set to take effect Nov. 12.

This time, it wasn’t TikTok itself that secured the injunction. Instead, three creators who use the app to build their businesses filed a suit to stop it from being shut down in the country. The TikTokers, as they are called, each have more than 1 million followers on the app and argued they would lose access to “professional opportunities afforded by TikTok,” according to the suit.

The injunction means that TikTok will remain online and usable in the United States past Nov. 12, as long as the decision is not overturned. It marks another defeat for the Trump Administration in its long-running efforts to restrict TikTok in the United States, although Chinese TikTok parent ByteDance might still be forced to sell parts of its business to a U.S. company.

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Judge Wendy Beetlestone in federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said in her decision that the ban would cause the creators to “lose the ability to engage with their millions of followers on TikTok, and the related brand sponsorships.”

TikTok was set to be effectively banned in the United States on Nov. 12 after President Trump issued an executive order in August stating it was a national security threat due to its parent company’s ties to China. The Commerce Department laid out the specifics of that ban in September, setting initial measures that would have removed TikTok from U.S. app stores, and more serious measures that would have prevented Internet businesses in the country from working with TikTok.

The first part of the ban, which would have removed it from app stores, was halted last month by a D.C. judge, who said that the Trump administration’s proposed ban against video app TikTok may “likely exceed” the bounds of the law.


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The new ruling also halts the additional measures scheduled to go into effect Nov. 12, when the United States was set to ban any provision of Internet hosting services, or other network services, that allows TikTok to function domestically.

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The Justice Department can still appeal the injunction granted Friday, as it already did in the D.C. case. The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TikTok spokeswoman Hilary McQuaide said the company was “deeply moved” by the support from creators.

“We support our creative community in continuing to share their voices, both through the platform and the legal options available to them, and we are committed to continuing to provide a home for them to do so,” she said in a statement.

TikTok brought the lawsuit fighting the ban in D.C., and a court hearing is set for Nov. 4 to discuss whether the judge should stop the Nov. 12 restrictions from taking place.

ByteDance still has that same deadline to divest from TikTok in the United States, under a separate presidential order. The company has been in talks with Walmart and Oracle to make investments in a new TikTok entity. Even though Trump gave his tentative blessing to the deal last month, it still has not been finalized.

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The Pennsylvania suit was brought by creators Doug Marland, Cosette Rinab and Alec Chambers, who all use TikTok as professional influencers. Rinab has 2.3 million followers on the app and makes videos mostly for fashion brands, for which she makes between $5,000 and $10,000 per video.

Marland, who has 2.7 million followers, on the app said the ban would have been a “major hit” to his business. Marland makes comedy videos and posts about his life, and partners with record labels to promote music on the app.

“For so many people, me included, their entire job and livelihood is TikTok and to have that taken away based on random speculation really does not make sense,” he said Friday.

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