A judge in Washington has temporarily blocked a Trump administration order banning Apple and Google from offering Chinese-owned app TikTok
US district judge Carl Nichols granted a preliminary injunction sought by TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, to allow the app to remain available at US app stores, but declined “at this time” to block additional commerce department restrictions that are set to take effect on 12 November that TikTok has said would have the impact of making the app impossible to use in the United States.
TikTok lawyer John Hall had said a ban would be “punitive” and close off a public forum used by tens of millions of Americans.
In a written brief filed ahead of the hearing, TikTok lawyers said the ban was “arbitrary and capricious” and “would undermine data security” by blocking updates and fixes to the app used by some 100 million Americans.
The company also said the ban was unnecessary because negotiations were already underway to restructure the ownership of TikTok to address national security issues raised by the administration.
TikTok said the proposed ban was not simply a business restriction but would “prohibit core constitutionally protected speech: videos composed by millions of Americans containing a vast array of individual expression, ranging from art to political speech.”
TikTok has an estimated 100 million users in the US and 700 million worldwide, making it one of the largest operators in the social media space.
The TikTok petition had speculated that Trump was retaliating because of reports critics used the app to snatch up tickets to a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to which they had no intention of going – an event that embarrassed the president, with far fewer people in attendance than expected.
Government lawyers argued the president had a right to take national security actions, and said the ban was needed because of TikTok’s links to the Chinese government through its parent firm ByteDance.
A government brief called ByteDance “a mouthpiece” for the Chinese Communist Party and said it was “committed to promoting the CCP’s agenda and messaging.”