A few days ago, the U.S. Department of Commerce released a series of rules aimed at blocking American users from downloading TikTok and WeChat after President Trump signed an ordinance back in August. Tick tock A last minute respite was granted yesterday after signing an investment and cloud service contract with Oracle and Walmart that delayed the implementation of the download ban by at least a week. However, WeChat should be effectively shut down today, with a ban on downloads and a ban on any services that operated the service.
Now there is a new fold in the battle for the future of the social app, which is widely used in Chinese-speaking communities and owned by China-based Tencent. A district judge in San Francisco has temporarily suspended the statewide ban following a lawsuit from WeChat Users argue that the ban undermined free speech for American citizens. This court case, US WeChat Users Alliance v Trump, can continue.
In her executive opinion released yesterday, U.S. Judge Laurel Beeler argued that the case's government vulnerabilities were based on the first amendment, its power to act under existing legislation to allow the government to take control of the industry, and its general weaknesses Indeterminacy versus Harm a Prohibition would likely have affected the Chinese-speaking community in the United States.
From their opinion:
Certainly the government's overriding national security interest is important. In that recording, while the government noted that China's activities raise significant national security concerns, it has provided little evidence that the effective ban on WeChat for all US users addresses those concerns. And as plaintiffs point out, there are obvious alternatives to an outright ban, such as banning WeChat from government devices like Australia did, or other steps to combat data security.
Given the likelihood of legal proceedings and the immediate harm a ban would have if implemented, the judge launched a nationwide injunction against the implementation of the Department of Commerce's order to ban the app.
Trade will have the opportunity to react to this development, and whether it will process its order, take other routes in court, or simply lift the order entirely, we shall see in the days ahead.