Cyberwarfare / Nation-State Attacks , Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Governance & Risk Management

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump's TikTok Ban

Decision Comes Hours Before Ban of Social Media App Would Have Taken Effect
Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump's TikTok Ban

A federal judge Sunday granted TikTok's request for a temporary injunction to block the Trump administration's order that would have banned the Chinese social media app from the U.S. starting Monday.

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Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued his decision Sunday - a few hours before the Trump administration's ban would have forced Apple and Google to remove the TikTok video-sharing app from their online stores.

The ban would have meant that new users no longer would have been able to download the app to their devices and that current users would not have been able to access updates (see: US Banning TikTok, WeChat Downloads).

In court documents, TikTok's attorney, John Hall, challenged the Trump administration's ban saying that the app is used by over 100 million Americans and that parent company ByteDance was denied due process by the White House and the Department of Commerce. Lawyers for the company also argued the administration's ban violated First Amendment rights to free speech.

In seeking to ban TikTok from U.S. app stores, the Trump administration argued that the social media app is a threat to national security because it collects vast swaths of user data, including network activity and location data as well as browsing and search histories, and the Chinese government could access this information to spy on American citizens (see: DOJ Official Spells Out Concerns About TikTok, WeChat ).

Further Court Action

While Nichols ruled in favor of TikTok and ByteDance on Sunday, the order is only temporary, and the judge has scheduled another hearing for Wednesday to hear additional arguments from both the company and the Trump administration.

Nichols' ruling is still under seal, so his exact legal reasoning for halting the ban is not yet known. The coming court hearing will determine if the entire ruling can be unsealed and made public.

On Sunday, CNN reported that, in a conference call between Nichols and attorneys from the government and company, the judge indicated that his ruling is based on the Trump administration denying ByteDance due process before the ban was put into place.

Partnership Negotiations Continue

After the judge issued his decision, ByteDance released a statement saying it was pleased with the ruling, and it said it would continue to work on a proposed agreement with Oracle and Walmart that calls for the two U.S. firms to take a 20% ownership stake in a new, U.S.-based TikTok operation.

President Donald Trump announced Sept. 19 that he had given his "blessing" to the deal, but the agreement has not been officially approved by the companies or the U.S. Treasury Department (see: As TikTok Negotiations Continue, US App Ban Gets Delayed).

In a statement Sunday, the Commerce Department noted that it would abide by the judge's ruling but that it would continue to defend Trump's executive order banning the app from the U.S. because TikTok remains a national security concern.

"The [executive order] is fully consistent with the law and promotes legitimate national security interests. The government will comply with the injunction and has taken immediate steps to do so but intends to vigorously defend the E.O. and the secretary's implementation efforts from legal challenges," according to the Commerce Department.

The TikTok ban was originally scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 20, but the Commerce Department delayed the decision by a week after Trump's announcement earlier this month endorsing the ByteDance partnership with U.S. companies.

In addition to TikTok, the Trump administration also called for a U.S. ban on WeChat, another social media app owned by a Chinese company. That order is also on hold after a federal judge in California issued a temporary injunction, noting violations of free speech (see: The Debate Over Trump 'Ban' of TikTok, WeChat).


About the Author

Prajeet Nair

Prajeet Nair

Principal Correspondent

Nair is principal correspondent for Information Security Media Group's global news desk. He has previously worked at TechCircle, IDG, Times Group and other publications where he reported on developments in enterprise technology, digital transformation and other issues.




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