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TikTok’s new suitor is former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt as lawsuit pushes back against ban | CNN Business



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Another wealthy investor says he’s organizing a bid to purchase TikTok, after President Joe Biden signed a law last month forcing TikTok to find a new owner or be banned in the United States.

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

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

Nor did he address how he plans to deal with the Chinese government’s expected opposition to a forced sale, which would likely trigger export controls China has imposed on TikTok’s secretive recommendation algorithm.

Still, McCourt said, the potential opportunity to acquire TikTok is a chance to rewire how social media works. Under McCourt’s proposal, TikTok would operate on an open-source, decentralized protocol where users control their own data no matter what social media app they use.

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

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

McCourt joins a host of other would-be suitors angling to pick up a platform used by 170 million Americans. Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced in March he’s assembling a bid, as well as Kevin O’Leary, the Canadian chairman of the private venture capital firm O’Leary Ventures.

TikTok, meanwhile, has indicated that it’s not for sale and the company has instead begun to mount a fight against the new law. The company sued to block the law earlier this month, saying that spinning off from its Chinese parent company is not feasible and that the legislation would lead to a ban of the app in the United States starting in January of next year.

TikTok’s lawsuit claims the US government “has taken the unprecedented step of expressly singling out and banning” the short-form video app in an unconstitutional exercise of congressional power that would affect both the platform and its American users.

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

The group includes a college football coach; a rancher and former US marine; and a small business owner who runs a line of skincare products, among others, who collectively claim approximately 14 million followers on TikTok. Several of the creators claim they could lose money earned through TikTok’s Creator Fund or by promoting their small businesses if the app were banned, and that their attempts to use other platforms have proven less fruitful.

“As Americans, we should be able to pick whatever apps we use and the government shouldn’t have the power to take that freedom away from us haphazardly,” one of the creators involved in the suit, Topher Townsend, said in a statement. “TikTok contributes significantly to my income and allowed 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 is going to harm a lot of people, including me.”

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

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