A federal judge on Sunday blocked Donald Trump’s administration from banning downloads of the Chinese-owned WeChat app, concluding that such a move raises First Amendment concerns.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler granted users of the app a preliminary injunction on the grounds that they “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim.”
The administration attempted to prevent app stores from distributing the WeChat app, while restricting other functions. Beeler wrote that the result was that the app, “while perhaps technically available to existing U.S. users, likely will be useless to them.”
The Commerce Department. citing national security concerns, had said on Friday that it would restrict downloads of WeChat and TikTok, meaning that app stores on platforms like Apple and Google could not be made available for downloads.
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But Beeler wrote that while “the government’s overarching national-security interest is significant,” the administration “has put in scant little evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all U.S. users addresses those concerns. And, as the plaintiffs point out, there are obvious alternatives to a complete ban, such as barring WeChat from government devices, as Australia has done, or taking other steps to address data security.”
The administration has been trying to restrict the popular services because of concerns over the collection of user data by Chinese-owned ByteDance, parent company of TikTok, and Tencent, maker of WeChat.
On Saturday, the president appeared to give his blessing to a transaction in which TikTok will partner with Oracle and Walmart, and forestall a ban on that app. “I approve the deal in concept,” Trump said. Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison is a Trump supporter.
The deal calls for a new entity to be created called TikTokGlobal, which will be based in the United States.
Trump also said that the companies involved in the TikTok deal had agreed to contribute $5 billion to an education foundation to “educate people as to real history of our country” and “not the fake history.” Earlier in the week, Trump said in a speech that he was creating a commission to promote “patriotic” education. According to Bloomberg, the new TikTok company would still control the money and how it is invested.