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Monday, 21 September 2020

Judge halts Trump administration's order to remove Chinese-owned WeChat from app stores on grounds it would 'affect users' First Amendment rights' (Picture)

 A judge has blocked the Trump administration from requiring Apple and Google to remove Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat for downloads.    

In a ruling dated Saturday, Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in California said the government's actions would affect users' First Amendment rights as an effective ban on the app removes their platform for communication.

WeChat is a messaging-focused app popular with many Chinese-speaking Americans that serves as a lifeline to friends, family, customers and business contacts in China. It's owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent and has an average of 19 million daily active users in the US, analytics firms Apptopia said in August.

A group of WeChat users had made the injunction request after the U.S. Commerce Department said Friday it would bar WeChat from U.S. app stores and keep it from accessing essential internet services in the country, beginning Sunday night at 11:59 p.m.

A judge early Sunday blocked the Trump administration from requiring Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google to remove Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat for downloads by late Sunday

A judge early Sunday blocked the Trump administration from requiring Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google to remove Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat for downloads by late Sunday

The government cited national security and data-privacy concerns in taking action against WeChat and imposing similar restrictions on TikTok, another popular Chinese-owned app. 

The Justice Department said blocking the order would 'frustrate and displace the president´s determination of how best to address threats to national security.'

Restrictions on TikTok were pushed back by a week Saturday after President Donald Trump said he supported a proposed deal that would make TikTok a U.S. company.


WeChat users had argued the moves targeting the all-in-one app with instant-messaging, social media and other communication tools would restrict free speech.

In the ruling, the court said that a WeChat ban 'eliminates all meaningful access to communication in the plaintiffs' community,' and that an injunction would be in the public interest.

The US government had earlier argued that it is not restricting free speech because WeChat users still 'are free to speak on alternative platforms that do not pose a national security threat.'

The government cited national security and data-privacy concerns in taking action against WeChat. Trump is pictured Saturday

The government cited national security and data-privacy concerns in taking action against WeChat. Trump is pictured Saturday 

The one-week delay came after Trump on Saturday blessed a deal with TikTok owner ByteDance and U.S. companies Oracle Corp and Walmart Inc to create a new company to handle TikTok's U.S. operations

The one-week delay came after Trump on Saturday blessed a deal with TikTok owner ByteDance and U.S. companies Oracle Corp and Walmart Inc to create a new company to handle TikTok's U.S. operations

Specific evidence about WeChat posing a national security threat was also 'modest,' according to Judge Beeler.

The dispute over the two apps is the latest flashpoint in the rising tensions between the world´s two largest economies, as the Trump administration attempts to counter the influence of China.

Since taking office in 2017, Trump has waged a trade war with China, blocked mergers involving Chinese companies and stifled the business of Chinese firms like Huawei, a maker of phones and telecom equipment.

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