Judge Blocks Trump’s TikTok Order

By Avi Ben Ezra Monday, September 28, 2020

A US court has temporarily blocked Trump’s order prohibiting Apple and Google from including TikTok in AppStore and Play Store. Judge Carl Nichols in Washington granted the preliminary injunction that the owner of TikTok, ByteDance, demanded. 

The judge refused to block restrictions set to come into force on November 12 on technical and business agreements that are essential for TikTok to operate properly. The detailed written statement is scheduled for release later.

“Irrational” Ban

The Department of Commerce said it “will comply with the injunction and has taken immediate steps to do so.” The statement didn’t mention whether the government will appeal the decision.

Trump’s order came amid negotiations between Walmart Inc. and Oracle Corp on an agreement to obtain stakes in TikTok Global, a new company that would control US operations. President Trump previously said that he has given the green light for this deal. 

However, core concepts of the deal like who will own the majority stake are a matter of dispute. TikTok owner ByteDance pointed out that any deal will need approval from China as Beijing has amended its list of technologies liable to export bans. Therefore, China now has a say over any TikTok deal.

The video-sharing service provider said it was pleased with the judge’s decision and said it would maintain its “ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the president gave his preliminary approval to last week, into an agreement.”

TikTok’s lawyer John E. Hall said on Sunday that Trump’s 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 said, “This is just punitive. This is just a blunt way to whack the company...There is simply no urgency here.”

Chinese state media were also pleased with the injunction. The state media said there’s no reason for their government to approve the deal, which is predicated on “bullying and extortion.”

“I think it is in line with morality, justice and common sense,” Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of the Global Times, said in a tweet on Monday.

National Security Issue

The Trump administration views TikTok as a national security threat as personal data collected from 100 million American citizens who use the platform could be acquired by the Chinese government. Furthermore, any deal will also need approval from the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

The Justice Department argued a temporary injunction 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.”

Another US judge in Pennsylvania rejected a request from three TikTok content creators to block the ban. 

According to the creators, if the government lifts TikTok from US app stores, they would “lose access to tens of thousands of potential viewers and creators every month, an effect amplified by the looming threat to close TikTok altogether.”

Nevertheless, judge Wendy Beetlestone rejected their bid to block the order and agreed that such an order would be “inconvenience” for them but pointed out that they haven’t presented the irrevocable damage needed for a victory in court. 

On a global level, TikTok has around 2 billion downloads, which is the same level as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube. However, TikTok is different from those three because it is not listed on the U.S. stock market. TikTok’s mother company, ByteDance, is a privately held company, legally incorporated in the Cayman Islands and based in Beijing.

US government lawyers said President Trump had a right to take action against an app that’s considered a national security threat, arguing the ban was necessary due to TikTok’s links to the Chinese government through ByteDance. 

A government brief said ByteDance is a “mouthpiece” for the Chinese Communist party and said it was “committed to promoting the CCP’s agenda and messaging.”

Summary

A US judge in Washington has provisionally blocked Trump’s order to ban TikTok from US app stores. Both TikTok’s parent company ByteDance and Chinese state media praised the decision while the US Department of Commerce said it plans to comply with the injunction.

About the Author


Headshot for author Avi Ben Ezra

Avi Ben Ezra is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Cofounder of SnatchBot and SnatchApp (Snatch Group Limited). He leads the Group’s long-term technology vision and is responsible for running all facets of the tech business which includes being the architect of the platforms and UI interfaces.

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