A Washington judge has temporarily blocked the Trump’s administration executive order, due to take effect late Sunday evening, prohibiting Apple and Google from offering the TikTok application for download in their online stores in the United States.
American users will be able to continue to download TikTok and its updates, at least for the time being, thanks to a Washington judge who on Sunday 27 September blocked the suspension of the app ordered by the Trump administration in the name of national security.
Donald Trump had signed an order in early August to ban the very popular social network, which belongs to the Chinese group ByteDance, unless it passes into the lap of an American company.
A few hours before the government’s decision to ban the application on download platforms came into effect, Judge Carl Nicholas ruled in favour of TikTok, which had filed an appeal on 18 September.
The magistrate, appointed by Donald Trump in 2019, however, refused to suspend the total ban on the application on American soil, scheduled for 12 November. The reasons for his decision are under seal, to protect potentially confidential information, but are to be published on Monday, once both parties have agreed.
“We are satisfied that the court agreed with our legal arguments and prevented the ban from being implemented,” TikTok said.
The Ministry of Commerce said it would comply with the judge’s decision, but intended “to defend the presidential decree vigorously against legal pitfalls”.
“It is a community.”
At a telephone hearing on Sunday morning, TikTok’s lawyers said that blocking downloads of the app would be unconstitutional and violate the right to freedom of expression, especially in the run-up to the 3 November presidential election.
“TikTok is much more than an app, it is the modern version of the public forum, it is a community, it is a means of communication all the more important in times of pandemic,” said lawyer John Hall. “If the ban comes into effect, it is as if the government is preventing two-thirds of the country from coming to the agora”.
The platform also assured that it would do irreparable damage in terms of growth, as it was gaining some 424,000 new US users a day at the beginning of the summer. And interrupting updates would, ironically, have the direct consequence of “eroding security” for the current 100 million US users, Hall added.
For its part, the government sees ByteDance as a “mouthpiece” for the Chinese Communist Party and says it wants to prevent new users from being exposed to the risk of having their data looted by China.
Donald Trump has long accused TikTok of spying on its users for the benefit of Beijing, without proof.
Since his decree, negotiations, invective at the top and twists and turns in the courts have followed one after the other. If the negotiations do not succeed, a complete ban on the network’s activities on American soil could come into force from 12 November, the Treasury has warned.
The creation of a new company
TikTok confirmed last weekend an agreement to set up a new company, TikTok Global, with Oracle as technology partner in the US and Walmart as business partner.
There would also be a 12.5% stake from Oracle and a 7.5% stake from Walmart. Americans would hold four of the five seats on the board of directors. But finalization depends on the goodwill of the American president and the Chinese government.
“We are continuing our ongoing dialogue with the government to finalise this project, to which the president has given his preliminary agreement,” TikTok said Sunday evening.