A United States judge on Sunday temporarily blocked the Donald Trump administration’s order to ban Chinese video-sharing app TikTok for download in the country from midnight, AP reported.
Judge Carl Nichols, however, did not stay a more comprehensive ban order on the app scheduled for November, about a week after the US presidential elections.
TikTok’s lawyer argued that the ban was an infringement of the first amendment of the US Constitution that pertains to freedom of speech and that the Trump administration’s order would do irreparable harm to the business.
“How does it make sense to impose this app store ban tonight when there are negotiations underway that might make it unnecessary?” TikTok’s lawyer John E Hall asked during the hearing, according to Reuters. “This is just punitive. This is just a blunt way to whack the company... There is simply no urgency here.”
Hall was referring to the company’s earlier announcement that it was making multinational firm Oracle its US technology provider and retail company Walmart a commercial partner. The US had on September 20 delayed the ban, calling the proposal a “positive development.”
Following the postponement of the ban, TikTok said in a statement that it was pleased with the ruling and would continue to work to turn its proposed deal into an actual agreement. The Commerce Department said it will comply with the order but will defend the administration’s decision against the app.
At the hearing, Hall argued that the ban would prevent tens of thousands of people from expressing themselves and added that it would also stop the existing users from receiving security updates, eroding national security.
Department of Justice lawyer Daniel Schwei argued that such economic regulations, imposed on TikTok, are generally not subject to the First Amendment.
“This is the most immediate national security threat,” argued Schwei. “It is a threat today. It is a risk today and therefore it deserves to be addressed today even while other things are ongoing and playing out.” He added that TikTok had also failed to prove that the company would suffer irreparable business harm.
Trump has repeatedly alleged that TikTok poses a threat to his country’s national security because of Beijing’s influence. TikTok, on the other hand, has consistently denied the allegations and maintained that the company had “taken extraordinary measures” to protect the privacy of its users.
On August 6, Trump had issued executive orders banning transactions with the video app within 45 days if it did not sell off its assets. A week later, he issued another order and gave the company a 90-day ultimatum to close the deal. Trump had on September 10 refused to extend the September 15 deadline for Chinese company ByteDance to sell its popular video-sharing platform TikTok’s American assets. “It’ll either be closed up or they’ll sell it,” Trump had said. “There will be no extension of the TikTok deadline.”
The ban order does not prevent US companies from doing business with TikTok and WeChat outside the borders of the country. US companies like Walmart and Starbucks use WeChat’s embedded programmes to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China. The order will also not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the United States.
On June 29, the Indian government had banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese-linked apps, citing national security concerns. The move came just two weeks after a violent clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers at Galwan Valley in Ladakh, along the Line of Actual Control, which resulted in the death of 20 jawans.