The Trump administration’s efforts to ban Chinese-owned apps continue to run into roadblocks. On Sunday, a federal judge postponed an order from the Trump administration that would have prohibited the video-sharing app TikTok from US app stores. The action was taken by a judge just hours before the ban was to go into effect.
Lawyers for TikTok argued that the ban would be an infringement on free speech and lacked due process. The lawyers also argued that since TikTok has tens of millions of users in the US, it is a “modern-day version of the town square.”
TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance has been working on a deal that would allow the app to continue to operate in the US. The agreement must satisfy both the US government and the Chinese government. After a tentative deal was reached between ByteDance, Oracle, and Walmart, confusion over who would actually control TikTok stopped the deal from being finalized.
A stricter ban on TikTok will go into effect in November if a deal is not reached. On November 12th, US companies will be prohibited from making financial transactions with TikTok and providing the app with internet hosting services. Experts say these harsher measures will effectively shut down TikTok in the US. The judge’s decision on Sunday did not address these stricter measures or the November deadline.
Earlier in September, a federal judge blocked President Trump’s executive order to shut down the Chinese app WeChat in the US. WeChat is used as social media, a messaging app, and a way to make financial payments. It is a vital communication tool for Chinese Americans to speak with their families inside China. In blocking the WeChat ban, the judge said the president’s order to ban the app was an infringement on free speech.
The White House cites national security as the justification to ban these apps, but the ban is also part of the administration’s broader anti-China policies. On Friday, the US Commerce Department filed documents to the federal court ahead of Sunday’s hearing that said TikTok poses an “immitigable risk” to national security that requires the app to sever ties with ByteDance completely.
The allegation against TikTok is that since a Chinese company owns it, they are obligated to share user data with the Chinese government. TikTok denies the charge, and even the CIA recently said it had not seen evidence of the Chinese government accessing TikTok’s user data.
All of the things TikTok is accused of, US tech companies are guilty of with respect to the US government. In 2013, leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that a program known as PRISM gives the NSA and FBI backdoor access to user data from Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and other US tech platforms.