TikTok’s new suitor is former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, as another lawsuit challenges the ban

TikTok’s new suitor is former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, as another lawsuit challenges the ban

Another wealthy investor said he was organizing a bid to buy TikTok, after President Joe Biden signed a law last month that forced TikTok to find a new owner or be banned in the United States.

Frank McCourt, the real estate billionaire and former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, said on Wednesday he was laying the groundwork to acquire TikTok as part of a broader initiative to make the internet healthier.

McCourt, who has spent years accusing tech giants of exploiting their users and undermining the original open vision of the internet, did not reveal how much he wants to spend on TikTok or how much he believes the platform is worth.

He also did not discuss how he plans to deal with the Chinese government’s expected opposition to the forced sale, which would likely trigger export controls China has imposed on TikTok’s secret recommendation algorithm.

Still, McCourt said, the potential opportunity to acquire TikTok is an opportunity to restructure the way social media works. Under McCourt’s proposal, TikTok would operate on an open source and decentralized protocol where users control their own data regardless of which social media app they use.

“We can, and must, do more to protect the health and well-being of our children, families, democracy and society,” McCourt said in a statement. “We believe we can preserve — and improve — the TikTok experience by giving individuals and creators on the platform the value and control they deserve over who has access to their data and how it’s used.”

McCourt said he was working with investment firm Guggenheim Securities and law firm Kirkland & Ellis to help put together the bid, adding that the push was backed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web.

McCourt joins a host of other candidates vying to take on a platform used by 170 million Americans. Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced in March that he was making a bid, as was Kevin O’Leary, the Canadian chairman of private venture capital firm O’Leary Ventures.

TikTok, meanwhile, has indicated that it is not for sale and the company is instead starting to wage a fight against the new law. The company sued to block the law earlier this month, saying that breaking away from its Chinese parent company was unworkable and that the law would lead to a ban on the app in the United States from January next year.

TikTok’s lawsuit claims the US government “has taken unprecedented steps to expressly exclude and ban” the short video app in an unconstitutional exercise of congressional powers that would harm both the platform and its American users.

A group of eight TikTok creators on Tuesday also filed a separate lawsuit challenging the possible ban. Their suit calls the law an “extraordinary barrier to speech that violates the First Amendment” and claims that the law “promises to shut down a discrete medium of communication that has become an integral part of American life.”

The group includes college football coaches; a rancher and former US marine; and small business owners who run skin care product lines, among others, who collectively claim about 14 million followers on TikTok. Some creators claim they could lose money earned through the TikTok Creator Fund or by promoting their small businesses if the app is banned, and their attempts to use other platforms have proven less fruitful.

“As Americans, we should be able to choose whatever apps we use and the government should not have the power to arbitrarily take that freedom away from us,” one of the creators involved in the suit, Topher Townsend, said in a statement. “TikTok has contributed significantly to my income and allowed me the opportunity to be a full-time creator for almost four years now … This (new law) is being driven by larger politics, but the end result will hurt a lot of people, including me.”

TikTok declined to comment on the creator’s lawsuit. The US Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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