Judge Halts TikTok Ban (For Now)

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TikTok lives to dance another day.

On Sunday, a federal judge partially granted the video-sharing app its request for a temporary injunction against a United States ban. The ruling blocked the Trump Administration’s effort to restrict access to the Chinese app, only hours before the ban was to take effect.

The ruling is a tentative victory for TikTok, and its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance, as it appeals the White House’s ban as unconstitutional and a violation of due process.

Emergency Hearing

John Hall, an American attorney for TikTok, argued that the federal 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.” During an emergency Sunday morning hearing, he referred to the upcoming general election in his defense of the popular social media platform.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the U.S. government argued that China’s hold over TikTok represented an “immediate danger” to national security. The Trump Administration has warned for months that user data collected by TikTok could easily end up in the hands of the Chinese government, a severe risk to the privacy and security of the United States. All the while, TikTok has denied such a claim, insisting that it stores all American data in Virginia, with a backup in Singapore.

While Judge Carl Nichols has granted TikTok its temporary injunction, which will allow the app to continue American operations, he issued the opinion under seal, which means his exact rational is not public. Still, during the hearing, Judge Nichols suggested that the Administration’s ban, in its current form, resembled a “fairly significant deprivation” of TikTok’s due process.

Pending Deal

In early September, the U.S. Commerce Department announced that downloads of TikTok would be banned as of September 20. Commerce also said at the time that further restrictions would take effect November 12. These additional policies would make it illegal for internet backbone companies to carry TikTok’s internet traffic.

But Commerce delayed its deadline last week, after President Trump tentatively okayed a deal involving American companies Oracle and Walmart. The agreement attempts to satisfy Trump’s demand that ByteDance sell off U.S. operations of TikTok to an American company. But both Chinese and American regulators remained dissatisfied with the proposal, which has yet to be finalized.

Response to Injunction

TikTok wrote in a statement that it was “pleased” with Judge Nichols’ ruling. “We will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees,” read the statement. It added that it will continue negotiations with the U.S. government to close the Oracle/Walmart deal.

The Commerce Department, meanwhile, said it would comply with the injunction, but did not concede defeat. Commerce insists the ban is “fully consistent with the law and promotes legitimate national security interests”. The government says it will continue to “vigorously defend” its order, even as negotiations proceed.