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ByteDance and TikTok Sue US Government Over Looming Ban

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  • ByteDance and TikTok sued the U.S. government Monday over its August 6 Executive Order to ban the app.
  • ByteDance claims that the order denies it due process under the 5th Amendment and that the President hasn’t cited a proper justification for banning the app.
  • Notably, President Trump retroactively included TikTok as part of a 2019 National Emergency declaration that was supposed to protect telecommunications services and banned Chinese companies in the sector, such as Huawei.
  • TikTok claims it doesn’t meet the criteria to be included in that ban.
  • Additionally, TikTok claims it has worked with U.S. authorities to prove it is secure and has been purposefully ignored by government officials investigating the matter.

ByteDance Decides To Push Lawsuit

ByteDance filed a lawsuit against the United States government Monday, claiming that President Donald Trump’s executive order to ban TikTok denied it due process and lacked the proper legal justification.

That Executive Order was issued in early August and meant that TikTok, the ByteDance owned platform, would be effectively banned by September 15 unless it found a U.S.-based buyer.

In their complaint, ByteDance and TikTok argue that they aren’t a national security threat and were denied due process under the Fifth Amendment.

The Executive Order issued by the Administration on August 6, 2020 has the potential to strip the rights of [the TikTok] community without any evidence to justify such an extreme action, and without any due process,” the two added in the suit.

One of TikTok’s big problems with the administration’s decision is the fact that it apparently tried to work with U.S. authorities to alleviate fears over potential national security risks. For example, TikTok claims it gave “voluminous documentation” to the U.S. that proved user data is stored outside of China. Instead, it’s stored in the U.S. and Singapore. TikTok added that those documents showed its platform was secure from Chinese authorities, which is one of the biggest concerns U.S. authorities have about the app.

The company also was frustrated that the U.S. government reached out about ByteDance’s acquisition of Musc.ly, a precursor to TikTok, two years after the deal was done. Bytedance claims that it had given documentation to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to prove its security measures were more than enough to satisfy any concerns. Yet, it says that that committee, “never articulated any reason why TikTok’s security measures were inadequate to address any national security concerns, and effectively terminated formal communications with Plaintiffs well before the conclusion of the initial statutory review period.”

The fact that CFIUS was even looking into ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly in the first place is pretty notable as well. Musical.ly was a Chinese company that was bought by another Chinese company. Additionally, Musical.ly had very few assets in the U.S., most of which were sold off soon after being bought by ByteDance.

ByteDance is unsure why the CFIUS was investigating the matter, as the committee is supposed to ensure that foreign companies investing in American ones aren’t a national security risk. However, all of ByteDance’s transactions were between Chinese firms.

ByteDance is also arguing that“By banning TikTok with no notice or opportunity to be heard… the executive order violates the due process protections of the Fifth Amendment.” The complaint goes on to say, “The order is ultra vires because it is not based on a bona fide national emergency and authorizes the prohibition of activities that have not been found to pose ‘an unusual and extraordinary threat.'”

The Administration’s Authority

Trump’s order to ban TikTok hinges on the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. That act allows the President to regulate international trade in limited cases where he or she has declared a National Emergency over an extraordinary threat to the country.

Trump’s August executive order didn’t make a new national emergency for TikTok, it just classified it under a May 15, 2019 Executive Order that declared a National Emergency over the security of information and communications technology services. That order was targeted at companies like Chinese telecommunication companies such as Huawei, which have been accused by multiple nations of having close ties with China.

TikTok argues that it doesn’t fall under any of the categories that the order outlines and are improperly lumped into the same group. That may be true, but that 2019 order was extremely vague and has yet to be tested under these conditions in court. The order’s language encompasses just about any hardware or software company that could be associated with the telecommunications or communications industry.

TikTok will need to be able to prove that their app has nothing to do with those sectors to fall outside of the orders purview, which has yet to be considered by a judge. In the end, TikTok is confident that “the Administration’s decisions were heavily politicized, and industry experts have said the same.”

During all of this, there are reports that both Microsoft and Oracle are still in talks to buy TikTok, although it’s unclear if a successful suit by ByteDance will change those plans.

See What Others Are Saying: (CNET) (New York Times) (CNBC)

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Schools Across the U.S. Cancel Classes Friday Over Unverified TikTok Threat

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Officials in multiple states said they haven’t found any credible threats but are taking additional precautions out of an abundance of safety.


School Cancelled

Schools in no fewer than 10 states either canceled classes or increased their police presence on Friday after a series of TikToks warned of imminent shooting and bombs threats.

Despite that, officials said they found little evidence to suggest the threats are credible. It’s possible no real threat was actually ever made as it’s unclear if the supposed threats originated on TikTok, another social media platform, or elsewhere. 

“We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness, which is why we’re working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok,” TikTok’s Communications team tweeted Thursday afternoon. 

Still, given the uptick of school shootings in the U.S. in recent years, many school districts across the country decided to respond to the rumors. According to The Verge, some districts in California, Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas shut down Friday. 

“Based on law enforcement interviews, Little Falls Community Schools was specifically identified in a TikTok post related to this threat,” one school district in Minnesota said in a letter Thursday. “In conversations with local law enforcement, the origins of this threat remain unknown. Therefore, school throughout the district is canceled tomorrow, Friday, December 17.”

In Gilroy, California, one high school that closed its doors Friday said it would reschedule final exams that were expected to take place the same day to January.

According to the Associated Press, several other districts in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania stationed more police officers at their schools Friday.

Viral Misinformation or Legitimate Warnings?

As The Verge notes, “The reports of threats on TikTok may be self-perpetuating.”

For example, many of the videos online may have been created in response to initial warnings as more people hopped onto the trend. Amid school cancellations, videos have continued to sprout up — many awash with both rumors and factual information.

 “I’m scared off my ass, what do I do???”  one TikTok user said in a now-deleted video, according to People. 

“The post is vague and not directed at a specific school, and is circulating around school districts across the country,” Chicago Public Schools said in a letter, though it did not identify any specific post. “Please do not re-share any suspicious or concerning posts on social media.”

According to Dr. Amy Klinger, the director of programs for the nonprofit Educator’s School Safety Network, “This is not 2021 phenomenon.”

Instead, she told The Today Show that her network has been tracking school shooting threats since 2013, and she noted that in recent years, they’ve become more prominent on social media. 

“It’s not just somebody in a classroom of 15 people hearing someone make a threat,” she said. “It’s 15,000 people on social media, because it gets passed around and it becomes larger and larger and larger.”

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Associated Press) (People)

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Jake Paul Says He “Can’t Get Cancelled” as a Boxer

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The controversial YouTuber opened up about what it has been like to go from online fame to professional boxing.


The New Yorker Profiles Jake Paul

YouTuber and boxer Jake Paul talked about his career switch, reputation, and cancel culture in a profile published Monday in The New Yorker. 

While Paul rose to fame as the Internet’s troublemaker, he now spends most of his time in the ring. He told the outlet that one difference between YouTube and boxing is that his often controversial reputation lends better to his new career. 

“One thing that is great about being a fighter is, like, you can’t get cancelled,” Paul said. The profile noted that the sport often rewards and even encourages some degree of bad behavior.

“I’m not a saint,” Paul later continued. “I’m also not a bad guy, but I can very easily play the role.”

Paul also said the other difference between his time online and his time in boxing is the level of work. While he says he trains hard, he confessed that there was something more challenging about making regular YouTube content. 

“Being an influencer was almost harder than being a boxer,” he told The New Yorker. “You wake up in the morning and you’re, like, Damn, I have to create fifteen minutes of amazing content, and I have twelve hours of sunlight.”

Jake Paul Vs. Tommy Fury

The New Yorker profile came just after it was announced over the weekend Paul will be fighting boxer Tommy Fury in an 8-round cruiserweight fight on Showtime in December. 

“It’s time to kiss ur last name and ur family’s boxing legacy goodbye,” Paul tweeted. “DEC 18th I’m changing this wankers name to Tommy Fumbles and celebrating with Tom Brady.”

Both Paul and Fury are undefeated, according to ESPN. Like Paul, Fury has found fame outside of the sport. He has become a reality TV star in the U.K. after appearing on the hit show “Love Island.”

See what others are saying: (The New Yorker) (Dexerto) (ESPN)

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Hackers Hit Twitch Again, This Time Replacing Backgrounds With Image of Jeff Bezos

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The hack appears to be a form of trolling, though it’s possible that the infiltrators were able to uncover a security flaw while reviewing Twitch’s newly-leaked source code.


Bezos Prank

Hackers targeted Twitch for a second time this week, but rather than leaking sensitive information, the infiltrators chose to deface the platform on Friday by swapping multiple background images with a photo of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. 

According to those who saw the replaced images firsthand, the hack appears to have mostly — and possibly only — affected game directory headers. Though the incident appears to be nothing more than a surface-level prank, as Amazon owns Twitch, it could potentially signal greater security flaws. 

For example, it’s possible the hackers could have used leaked internal security data from earlier this week to discover a network vulnerability and sneak into the platform. 

The latest jab at the platforms came after Twitch assured its users it has seen “no indication” that their login credentials were stolen during the first hack. Still, concerns have remained regarding the potential for others to now spot cracks in Twitch’s security systems.

It’s also possible the Bezos hack resulted from what’s known as “cache poisoning,” which, in this case, would refer to a more limited form of hacking that allowed the infiltrators to manipulate similar images all at once. If true, the hackers likely would not have been able to access Twitch’s back end. 

The photo changes only lasted several hours before being returned to their previous conditions. 

First Twitch Hack 

Despite suspicions and concerns, it’s unclear whether the Bezos hack is related to the major leak of Twitch’s internal data that was posted to 4chan on Wednesday.

That leak exposed Twitch’s full source code — including its security tools — as well as data on how much Twitch has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019. 

It also revealed Amazon’s at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library, codenamed Vapor, which would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.

Even though Twitch has said its login credentials appear to be secure, it announced Thursday that it has reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Users are still being urged to change their passwords and update or implement two-factor authentication if they haven’t already. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Forbes) (CNET)

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