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Judge rules TikTok can avoid a ban in the US, for now

Tik Tok logo. Photo: Dado Ruvic/Reuters. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

WASHINGTON D.C., Sep 28, 2020, CNN Business. TikTok won’t be kicked off of US app stores — at least not yet. A federal judge on Sunday partially granted TikTok’s request for a temporary injunction against a push by the Trump administration to ban the app in the United States. The ruling blocks a US government ban on downloads of the app mere hours before the policy was to take effect, CNN reported.

The decision is a victory for TikTok after it challenged the ban as unconstitutional and a violation of due process.

The ban would have been an “extraordinary action at the very time when the need for free open and accessible communication in America is at its zenith” ahead of a presidential election, said John Hall, an attorney representing TikTok, said during an emergency hearing Sunday morning.

Government lawyers, meanwhile, argued at that hearing that TikTok’s ownership by a Chinese firm represented an “immediate danger” to national security. The app’s parent company ByteDance is based in Beijing, and the Trump administration has claimed that the app’s American user data risks winding up in the hands of the Chinese government. (Tiktok has denied this as a possibility and says it keeps US data stateside, with a backup in Singapore.)

Judge Carl Nichols’ opinion was issued under seal, so his exact reasoning for the order is not public. But during the emergency hearing, Nichols indicated that the Trump administration’s ban, as structured, could be considered a “fairly significant deprivation” of the company’s due process rights.

The Commerce Department announced earlier this month that TikTok downloads would be banned September 20, and further restrictions would go into effect November 12 — making it illegal for internet backbone companies to carry TikTok’s internet traffic. (Such companies help route traffic from web servers to home internet providers.)

Commerce delayed its initial deadline last weekend after President Donald Trump gave his tentative blessing to an agreement that involved TikTok, ByteDance, Oracle (ORCL) and Walmart (WMT). The deal, which has still not been finalized, was intended to address Trump’s national security concerns about the app and give at least partial ownership to American companies and investors.

TikTok said in a statement that it was “pleased” with the ruling.

“We will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees,” the company said in a statement, adding that it continues to talk to the government about the proposal that Trump tentatively approved.

The Commerce Department said late Sunday that it would comply with the injunction, but adding that its order was “fully consistent with the law and promotes legitimate national security interests.”
It added that the US government intends to “vigorously defend” its order.

Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

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