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Conservative rapper from Mississippi suing government over law that could ban TikTok

Christopher Townsend, better known to his followers as "Topher," is a Mississippi-based content creator suing the federal government over its possible TikTok ban (Photo courtesy of Topher/Facebook)

A social media influencer from Mississippi is one of eight creators suing the U.S. government over a new federal law that would ban popular social media app TikTok if its China-based parent company doesn’t sell its stakes within a year.

Christopher Townsend, better known to his followers as “Topher,” grew up in the Mississippi Delta before spending six years in the Air Force. Upon settling down in Philadelphia, Miss., Townsend began using social media to discuss political issues to his growing audience. The Donald Trump supporter was one of the former president’s top Black advocates during the 2020 election cycle and through political rants paired with his rap music, Townsend was able to garner over two million followers on TikTok alone.

Now, Townsend argues the federal government is trying to censor him and others who use TikTok to practice free speech. According to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday, creators “rely on TikTok to express themselves, learn, advocate for causes, share opinions, create communities, and even make a living.”

Townsend, in a video posted to TikTok after the filing, made it clear that he believes the government trying to nix the social media app is a violation of his First Amendment rights.

“I’m against government overreach,” Townsend said. “Specifically to the TikTok ban, this is an infringement upon our First Amendment right. As Americans, we should be free to choose whatever app we want to use. The government doesn’t have the right to tell us what we can’t use, especially when they haven’t proved or provided evidence to show the danger of said app that is unique to TikTok and not common on the other social media platforms. I’m fighting against it because that’s what you do as a patriot.”

According to the Associated Press, the complaint – filed by a diverse set of content creators that also includes a Texas-based rancher, an LGBTQ advocate in Arizona, and a business owner who sells skincare products, to name a few – could be destined for the Supreme Court. The AP also confirmed that TikTok was covering legal costs for the lawsuit, which was filed in a Washington appeals court.

“They have found their voices, amassed significant audiences, made new friends, and encountered new and different ways of thinking – all because of TikTok’s novel way of hosting, curating, and disseminating speech,” the lawsuit added, arguing that the new federal law could deprive the plaintiffs and other TikTok users of “this distinctive means of expression and communication.”

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate passed legislation last month requiring TikTok’s China-based parent company, ByteDance, to sell the platform to an approved buyer if it wants to continue operating in the U.S. President Joe Biden later signed the legislation as the Department of Justice vouches that the platform is a national security concern with the rival country being able to use it to steal users’ data and spread pro-China propaganda. TikTok currently has over 1 billion users worldwide but could lose out on nearly 150 million of those if the U.S. ban goes into effect. The tentative date for its American shutdown is Jan. 19, 2025.

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