Federal judge postpones Trump ban on popular app TikTok

Clay Curtis
September 28, 2020

A judge in Washington, DC late on Sunday temporarily blocked a controversial order by the Trump administration that was set to bar downloads of the popular Chinese-owned short video app TikTok at 11:59pm (03:59 GMT on Monday).

Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia responded by halting the ban, which was set to begin at midnight Sunday.

The ban, scheduled to go into effect at 11:59 p.m.in NY, would have removed TikTok from the app stores run by Apple and Google's Android, the most widely used marketplaces for downloadable apps.

The judge's ruling offers ByteDance some breathing room as the company continues working on a deal to give partial ownership to US partners to satisfy the security issues raised by Trump by November 12 or risk getting banned in the country.

The judge handing a temporary victory to TikTok follows the actions of another judge, in Northern California, who paused enforcement of the president's ban of a separate Chinese-owned app, WeChat.

The Justice Department said a preliminary injunction allowing Americans to continue downloading the TikTok app would be "interfering with a formal national security judgment of the president; altering the landscape with respect to ongoing CFIUS negotiations; and continuing to allow sensitive and valuable user information to flow to ByteDance with respect to all new users".

"The concern here is about data security risk and leaving data vulnerable to access by the Chinese government", Schwei said.

"We will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees", TikTok said in a statement Sunday.

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TikTok is still scrambling to firm up a deal tentatively struck a week ago in which it would partner with Oracle, a huge database-software company, and Walmart in an effort to win the blessing of both the Chinese and American governments.

Under a preliminary deal that Mr. Trump approved in concept, Oracle and Walmart would take a combined 20% in TikTok Global, a new USA -based company that would run the global service.

The deal is still to be reviewed by the U.S. government's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

TikTok lawyers also argued that a ban on the app would affect the ability of tens of thousands of potential viewers and content creators to express themselves every month and would also hurt its ability to hire new talent. ByteDance says Trump is exceeding his authority with the ban. The memo also said that before February 2019, TikTok stored its U.S. user data in China.

But the Chinese and United States firms are divided over control of a new USA entity.

During a rare Sunday hearing, he questioned whether TikTok had been given enough opportunity to defend itself before Trump issued an executive order last month barring the app from online stores.

A government brief called ByteDance "a mouthpiece" for the Chinese Communist Party and said it was "committed to promoting the CCP's agenda and messaging".

"This is the most immediate national security threat", argued Mr Schwei. In its request for an injunction, the company said it has created "software barriers that help ensure that TikTok stores its U.S. user data separately from the user data of other ByteDance products".

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