Trump administration’s WeChat ban is blocked by US district court

Clay Curtis
September 21, 2020

But neither ban is set to proceed immediately after the court order and a separate decision Saturday by the Commerce Department to delay the TikTok ban until September 27 because the app's owner is negotiating a possible deal to give Oracle Corp. oversight of USA user data. At the same time, a California judge struck down Trump's ban on Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat.

Clearly, the video app hopes an IPO, which will expose it to more public scrutiny, could allay fears over the alleged national security threat attached to its Chinese origin.

United States officials had expressed concern that the personal data of as many as 100 million Americans that use the app were being passed on to China's Communist Party government.

US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler has blocked a Commerce Department order requiring that Apple and Google remove WeChat from their app stores starting late Sunday from taking effect.

"The plaintiffs' evidence reflects that WeChat is effectively the only means of communication for many in the community, not only because China bans other apps, but also because Chinese speakers with limited English proficiency have no options other than WeChat", Beeler wrote, claiming that the executive order is an infringement on First Amendment rights.

"We're pleased that today we've confirmed a proposal that resolves the Administration's security concerns and settles questions around TikTok's future in the US".

On Saturday, TikTok confirmed that it hadreached a proposed deal with US companies Oracle and Walmart.

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The new TikTok Global will "pay more than $5 billion in new tax dollars to the U.S. Treasury", according to a joint statement by Oracle and Walmart.

China's ByteDance confirms it will retain an 80% stake in TikTok after selling a total of 20% to Oracle, its "trusted technology partner", and Walmart, its "commercial partner". "Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories", the Commerce Department said.

Oracle and TikTok followed Trump's comments with announcements that Oracle will become the cloud provider and a minority shareholder in the app, which is owned by China-based ByteDance.

The trio hammered out a deal in principle to "strengthen TikTok's business in the United States, ensure that 100 million Americans can still continue using the highly popular video and content app TikTok, and meet regulatory requirements by the U.S. administration", ByteDance replied to China Daily in a written statement on Sunday.

Trump approved the deal for the new entity that will be based in the United States. The White House has not said whether it will appeal the decision. "We are a 100% confident in our ability to deliver a highly secure environment to TikTok and ensure data privacy to TikTok's American users".

The Trump administration has used its own "entity list" to shut Chinese telecom giant Huawei out of the U.S. market, in addition to the recent moves against TikTok and WeChat. (Statement)The Commerce Department issued regulations Friday to bar US companies from providing downloads or updates for the TikTok and WeChat apps after 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

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