'I'm a Patriot': US Employee Sues Trump Admin Over TikTok Ban

Drew Grant

Drew Grant is dot.LA's Senior Editor. She's a media veteran with over 15-plus years covering entertainment and local journalism. During her tenure at The New York Observer, she founded one of their most popular verticals, tvDownload, and transitioned from generalist to Senior Editor of Entertainment and Culture, overseeing a freelance contributor network and ushering in the paper's redesign. More recently, she was Senior Editor of Special Projects at Collider, a writer for RottenTomatoes streaming series on Peacock and a consulting editor at RealClearLife, Ranker and GritDaily. You can find her across all social media platforms as @Videodrew and send tips to drew@dot.la.

'I'm a Patriot': US Employee Sues Trump Admin Over TikTok Ban

Hours after Culver City-based TikTok filed a federal lawsuit against President Donald Trump Monday over his recent executive order, an employee of the viral video app separately followed suit. The double-barreled legal salvos are a strong pushback against the order and weeks of rhetoric against Chinese-backed technology companies.

U.S.-based TikTok technical program manager Patrick S. Ryan told dot.LA that he took action after becoming upset and uncomfortable with the order issued earlier this month to ban any "transactions" with the popular social media app over national security concerns. In his lawsuit, Ryan accuses Trump of violating his Constitutional rights and defaming and disgracing U.S.-based TikTok Inc. employees.

"These accusations (in the executive order) could only occur through the "actions, cooperation, and collaboration of U.S.-based TikTok employees," the lawsuit states.


The lawsuits come after Trump's August 6 order put a 45-day clock on a ban of the popular social media app, owned by China-based ByteDance Ltd. The Administration has pushed for ByteDance to sell TikTok to a U.S.-based company over national security concerns that it is sharing data with the Communist government.

"I am a patriot," said Ryan, who previously worked at Google and is a trained attorney and former law professor. "I am not building dossiers of personal information to blackmail federal officials" for the Chinese government, "that's an unbelievable accusation" in the executive order. He added: "It's not based in any fact, they're saying 'reportedly' (but) I'm in a position where I'd know if we were receiving regular instructions from the Chinese Communist Party as it says."

The ban on "transactions" feasibly includes preventing TikTok Inc. from paying its 1,500 U.S.-based employees their wages and salaries when it takes effect on Sept. 21, the lawsuit states. Many of the 1,500 employees are new, as TikTok expanded from 300 employees a year ago to five times that number today. The order also jeopardizes the immigrant visas of employees in the U.S. on H1B visas that require an employer to sponsor them, the lawsuit alleges.

Because the U.S. Department of Commerce doesn't need to identify what a transaction is until the day the order takes effect, it's unclear if it will exempt wages and salaries for employees.

The lawsuit is believed to be the first time an employee has sued the president over an executive order, according to Alexander Urbelis, partner at Blackstone Law Group LLP, which filed the complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief.

Urbelis added that "executive orders don't usually reach individual employees (but) he sees this as other employees do, as a direct threat to his salary and the ability to put food on the table during a pandemic."

And while the president has lots of leeway on national security issues, "his power is not boundless" and those limits are crossed when an executive order lacks foundation, Urbelis said.

Trump's executive order notes that any "conspiracy" to violate the order is prohibited, but does not elaborate further.

"What I'm doing right now, in talking to you, is potentially a conspiracy, according to the way that's defined," Ryan said. As for reassuring employees about their future paychecks, it's illegal as things stand for the company to "provide that indication, they'd have to basically say they plan to violate the law. It makes it very difficult for the company to do anything. The company recognizes in many ways the position it's in, they cannot reassure employees in any authentic way."

In a blog post published Monday, TikTok said that it does not take suing the government "lightly, however we feel we have no choice but to take action to protect our rights, and the rights of our community and employees" amid the "speculative" allegations. The statement adds that the company took "extensive" efforts to address the Administration's concerns about national security.

But that has done little to quell Trump's focus on the parent company. He issued a separate executive order on Aug. 14 giving ByteDance 90 days to divest itself of its U.S. TikTok operations. Trump has said he supports the potential acquisition by Oracle, though the company has reportedly been in talks with multiple interested suitors.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech ‘Moves’: HyperDraft Taps LegalZoom Exec
Photo by James Opas | Modified by Joshua Letona

“Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis (sharmineh@dot.la). Please send job changes and personnel moves to moves@dot.la.

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