US judge halts Trump’s TikTok download ban

(Update adds US government reaction in pars 7-8)

San Francisco, Sep 27 (efe-epa).- A United States judge on Sunday temporarily blocked the government from implementing a ban on downloads and updates from the Chinese app TikTok, which was to have taken affect at 11.59 pm.

District judge Carl Nichols of the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued the temporary injunction at the request of the lawyers of TikTok’s owner ByteDance.

The ban would have meant that while people who already have the app on their phones would still be able to use it, they would not be offered software and security updates, nor would new downloads be possible.

The judge, however, denied the firm’s request to suspend a further ban of all usage to take effect on Nov. 12.

In August, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to ban TikTok in the US if ByteDance did not sell its business in the country to American owners.

According to Trump, the app poses a national security threat due to links in China between the private sector and the government of the Chinese Communist Party. The government has called the app “a mouthpiece” for the CPP.

The US Department of Commerce issued a statement after the ruling, saying it would “comply with the injunction and has taken immediate steps to do so, but intends to vigorously defend the E.O. (executive order) and [Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’] implementation efforts from legal challenges.”

“The E.O. is fully consistent with the law and promotes legitimate national security interests,” it added.

On Sunday morning, hours ahead of the decision, Nichols held a hearing in which he heard the arguments of the government, which claimed TikTok is a threat due to data collection and that, as a Chinese company, it is obliged to collaborate with the intelligence services of the country.

The firm’s lawyers denied that the company shares data with Chinese authorities, arguing that Trump’s is restricting freedom of expression, and that the ban would undermine data security by blocking updates and fixes.

It also said the ban was unnecessary due to current negotiations over restructuring the company to address the administration’s concerns.

After weeks of negotiations, ByteDance recently reached an agreement in principle with North American companies Oracle and Walmart to form TikTok Global in order to run the business in the US, which received preliminary approval from the White House.

However, in recent days differing claims from each side as to the shareholding in the deal has pushed it further towards Trump carrying out his threat to ban downloads of the app as planned.

According to the version of Oracle and Walmart – which will control 20 percent of the future firm – most of the new company will be US-owned, but according to ByteDance, they will control the remaining 80 percent until its IPO takes place with an initial public offering in about a year.

The version of the deal offered by ByteDance, therefore, would not satisfy the conditions of Trump’s executive order.

TikTok, which has 100 million users in the US and 700 million worldwide, is one of the fastest-growing social networks in recent years, and has become the main platform for many young people and a marketing channel for celebrities. EFE-EPA


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