A US federal judge blocks TikTok download ban
A federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to ban TikTok downloads in the U.S., giving the Chinese-owned app a short-term victory as it scrambles to ensure its future while caught in a battle of brinkmanship between global superpowers.
District Judge Carl Nichols, a nominee of President Donald Trump who joined the court last year, said he was issuing a temporary injunction at the request of TikTok, which the White House has accused of being a threat to national security.
Nichols declined “at this time” to block other Commerce Department restrictions set to take effect on November 12 that TikTok has said will make the app unusable in the United States.
But the courts could also ultimately side with the government and allow the ban to move forward. Judge Nichols, who was nominated by President Trump last year, on Sunday asked both sides to propose a timeline for more detailed arguments. He didn’t immediately explain the ruling to block the ban indefinitely.
On the other hand, John E Hall, a lawyer for TikTok, had argued during a 90-minute Sunday morning hearing that the ban was “unprecedented” and “irrational”.
“How does it make sense to impose this app store ban tonight when there are negotiations underway that might make it unnecessary?” Hall asked during the hearing. “This is just punitive. This is just a blunt way to whack the company … There is simply no urgency here.”
TikTok has become hugely popular over the past year, particularly among young people, and its downloads have climbed through the pandemic as users find respite in its feed of frothy and silly videos. TikTok says the app has more than 50 million daily active U.S. users, and 100 million monthly users.
US officials say they are concerned that personal data collected on 100 million Americans who use the app could be obtained by China’s governing Communist Party (CCP).
What about Trump’s TikTok deal?
ByteDance said last week it had reached a preliminary deal for Walmart and Oracle to take stakes in a new company, TikTok Global, that would oversee US operations. Negotiations continue over the terms of the agreement and to resolve concerns in both Washington and Beijing.
The deal is still to be reviewed by the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
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.”
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