US Judge Halts Government Ban on TikTok

NEW YORK - A U.S. federal judge has temporarily halted a Trump administration order to ban the popular video app TikTok from U.S. app stores.

The ban was due to go into effect at the end of the day Sunday by order of the U.S. Commerce Department, the latest move targeting what administration officials have said are security concerns with Chinese companies.

The judge gave lawyers for TikTok and the administration until Wednesday to meet and propose a schedule for further proceedings in the case.

TikTok lawyers argued at a Sunday hearing that banning the app would infringe on the free speech rights of its users, while also bringing irreparable harm to the company’s business.

“We will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees,” the company said in a statement welcoming the judge’s decision.

The Commerce Department said after the ruling that an executive order President Donald Trump issued in August outlining concerns that TikTok collects a wide range of data that could end up in the hands of the Chinese government “is fully consistent with the law and promotes legitimate national security interests.”

The statement said the government is complying with the injunction but intends to “vigorously defend” the executive order and its implementation from legal challenges.

The Trump administration also sought to shut another popular app, WeChat, out of U.S. app stores, before a judge issued an injunction a week ago stopping that ban as well.

China has rejected the U.S. allegations that the apps present security concerns, while accusing the United States of bullying Chinese companies.

The Justice Department asked Friday for the WeChat ban to be allowed to go into effect while that legal case plays out, arguing that allowing the app to continue to be available to U.S. users will cause the country harm.

TikTok has sought to alleviate U.S. concerns by forming a partnership with two U.S. companies, Oracle and WalMart. The deal has not been finalized, and there have been conflicting statements among the parties about how much of the new venture each would own.

Trump initially said he gave his blessing to the arrangement, before stating it would not go forward if TikTok’s parent company had any ownership stake in the new company.

TikTok said after Sunday’s ruling that it will “maintain our ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the President gave his preliminary approval to last weekend, into an agreement."

Source: Voice Of America

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