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US court blocks Trump’s ban on TikTok downloads

September 29, 2020 07:10 AM


US court blocks Trump’s ban on TikTok downloads

TikTok’s office in Culver City, California. AFP

Washington : President Donald Trump’s ban on TikTok was temporarily blocked by a federal judge, dealing a blow to the government in its showdown with the popular Chinese-owned app that it says threatens national security.

After an unusual Sunday morning hearing, US District Judge Carl Nichols granted a preliminary injunction against the ban on new downloads of the video-sharing network, which would have gone into effect at 11:59pm in Washington. The judge declined to grant an injunction on a separate set of prohibitions scheduled for November 12 that are designed to further curb the app’s use in the US.

TikTok’s owner, ByteDance Ltd, requested the hold after the President ordered the app out of American stores unless the company sold a stake in its US operations to a domestic buyer. The ban would have removed TikTok from stores run by Apple Inc and Google’s Android, the most widely used marketplaces for apps. People who didn’t yet have the app wouldn’t have been able to get it, and those who already had it wouldn’t have access to updates needed to ensure its safe and smooth operation. TikTok has been downloaded by more than 100 million Americans.

“We’re pleased that the court agreed with our legal arguments and issued an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok app ban,” the company said in a statement.

“We will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees. At the same time, we will also maintain our ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the President gave his preliminary approval to last weekend, into an agreement.”

Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s general manager, also tweeted support for the judge’s decision.

It’s the second legal ruling against the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on popular apps with Chinese owners. Trump has called for bans on both TikTok and WeChat, owned by China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd, arguing that the apps could give China’s government access to millions of Americans’ personal data. WeChat users won a court injunction against a ban last week. The bans are part of an increasingly hard line Trump has taken on Beijing as the election approaches.

The TikTok order was issued with a sealed opinion, so the reasons for the judge’s ruling weren’t immediately available. The judge asked both parties to submit filings by 11am on Monday to say whether the opinion should be unsealed. The government submitted sealed papers on Friday that it said contained “confidential business information”, but much of that filing was later released with minor redactions. The judge also ordered both parties to submit a joint proposed schedule for further hearings “on or before” September 30.

“The government will comply with the injunction and has taken immediate steps to do so, but intends to vigorously defend the E.O. and the secretary’s implementation efforts from legal challenges,” the Commerce Department said in a statement, referring to the President’s executive order.

A Treasury Department spokesperson noted that the November sale deadline remains in effect. If the government chooses to appeal the decision, it would go to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, one level below the Supreme Court.

ByteDance is fighting the Trump administration in court even as it pursues its approval for the sale of a stake in the US business to Oracle Corp and Walmart Inc. The ruling on Sunday doesn’t affect a November 12 deadline for the sale.

Even as the sale of TikTok is still awaiting final US approvals, two of China’s state-backed media mouthpieces last week denounced the deal. On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that Beijing opposes “the US abusing the concept of national security

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