US district court blocks Trump’s WeChat ban

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A United States district court judge has issued a nationwide injunction against President Donald Trump’s executive order, thereby preventing the country’s WeChat ban from coming into effect. 

The ruling was in relation to a lawsuit filed by WeChat users that argued the ban undermines the free speech rights of US citizens.

The case’s presiding judge, Laurel Beeler, granted the injunction to halt the WeChat ban as the plaintiffs showed serious questions about whether the ban impinged on the US first amendment. She also acknowledged the ban would provide hardship for the plaintiffs as it would shut down the primary means of communication for the Chinese community.

Beeler added that she was not convinced the ban would address the national security concerns posed by Trump due to there being “scant little evidence”.

“Certainly the government’s overarching national security interest is significant. But on this record — while the government has established that China’s activities raise significant national security concerns — it has put in scant little evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all US users addresses those concerns,” Beeler said in her judgment. 

“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 ban, which would have come into effect on Sunday, was announced by the US Commerce Department late last week. It was the official instrument for enforcing the two executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in early August, which had addressed what he labelled as the national security threat posed by the pair of Chinese apps. 

The ban had sought to block TikTok and WeChat as well as remove them from the Apple and Google app stores. Additionally, updates to the existing apps would have also been banned. 

The ban would not have prevented existing users from using the apps, however, so long as the apps were already installed prior to the app store removals.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said the ban on TikTok would be pushed back to November 12 unless national security concerns posed by the app are resolved. The decision to push back TikTok’s ban follows Oracle and Walmart announcing they would acquire 20% of a newly formed TikTok Global and issue an IPO within 12 months, effectively saving TikTok’s US footprint.

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