US not to enforce TikTok ban pending further legal developments

TikTok logo at the mobile phone. NurPhoto via Getty Images. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

WASHINGTON D.C., Nov 13, 2020, Xinhua. The US Commerce Department said Thursday that it will not enforce an order to ban popular video-sharing app TikTok “pending further legal developments,” citing a recent ruling by a federal district court, China Daily reported.

The department’s last-minute announcement would delay the implementation of the action set to take effect on Thursday.

In a statement, the department cited a preliminary injunction against the ban, ordered by Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Oct 30, following a lawsuit filed by three TikTok content creators.

The judge ruled she found that the US government’s “own descriptions of the national security threat posed by the TikTok app are phrased in the hypothetical,” and therefore she could not find that “the risk presented by the government outweighs the public interest in enjoining” the ban.

A separate ruling by Judge Carl Nichols of the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Sept 27 also temporarily blocked a partial ban, which would prevent new downloads of the app and software updates for existing users. The request for a preliminary injunction was filed by TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

On Aug 6, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning US transactions with TikTok and ByteDance after 45 days, citing national security concerns. A similar order was issued for WeChat, a messaging, social-media and mobile-payment app owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent.

“The actions against TikTok and WeChat are to weaken China’s role in the global digital economy generally, mainly for geopolitical reasons,” Jeffrey Sachs, an economics professor at Columbia University and a senior United Nations advisor, told Xinhua earlier.

On Aug 14, Trump signed another executive order that forces ByteDance to sell or spin off its US TikTok business within 90 days, setting the deadline of Nov 12, or Thursday.

TikTok filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Central District of California against the Trump administration, challenging the legality and constitutionality of the Aug 6 executive order, and arguing that there is no credible evidence to back up Trump’s national security claims.

The Commerce Department, citing the president’s Aug 6 executive order, said earlier that TikTok would have to be removed from US app stores on Sept 20. The partial ban was later delayed by a week to Sept 27. The department also said a more extensive ban against the app would be applied starting from Nov 12.

In September, Trump gave a preliminary approval for ByteDance to sell the popular app to US buyers, and a potential deal among ByteDance, Oracle and Walmart emerged. However, the US administration offered no further decisions in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, TikTok announced that it has filed a petition to a federal appeals court seeking to invalidate the US government’s divestiture order issued on Aug 14.

The Los Angeles-based tech firm said in a statement that it had asked the government for a 30-day extension because it was “facing continual new requests and no clarity on whether our proposed solutions would be accepted,” but it had not been granted one.

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