Last-Minute Injunction Spares TikTok From App Store Ban
TikTok has won an eleventh-hour injunction against the Trump administration’s ban, which would have seen it forced off Apple and Google’s app stores today.
The ruling handed down by US Judge Carl Nichols of the DC District Court means TikTok can remain available for download for new users, and can continue to offer updates to existing users; however, it does not at this stage affect tighter restrictions set to come into effect in November.
In a court hearing, TikTok’s attorneys said banning the short video app would deny users an important public form just over a month before the presidential election. John Hall, representing TikTok, also called the ban “irrational”, given the ongoing talks between Chinese owner ByteDance and American tech giant Oracle.
“How does it make sense to impose this app store ban tonight when there are negotiations underway that might make it unnecessary? This is just punitive. This is just a blunt way to whack the company. There is simply no urgency here,” said Hall.
Judge Nichols’ ruling echoes a similar injunction handed down last week blocking a ban of instant messaging service WeChat, which is owned by Chinese company Tencent and heavily used by Chinese-Americans. US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler determined that the proposed ban would violate WeChat users’ First Amendment rights.
“Effectively banning WeChat – which serves as a virtual public square for the Chinese-speaking and Chinese-American community in the United States and is (as a practical matter) their only means of communication – forecloses meaningful access to communication in their community and thereby operates as a prior restraint on their right to free speech that does not survive strict scrutiny,” she said.
The Justice Department has applied to a federal judge to force Apple and Google to remove WeChat from their respective app stores.