U.S. judge suspends Trump ban on TikTok downloads  
Updated 16:59, 28-Sep-2020

A judge in Washington has temporarily blocked a Trump administration order banning Apple and Google from offering the Chinese-owned short video-sharing app TikTok for download on their U.S. app stores. 

The ban had been set to take effect at 11:59 p.m. local time on Sunday.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said in a brief order he was issuing a preliminary injunction to prevent the TikTok app store ban from taking effect. Nichols declined "at this time" to block other restrictions by the U.S. Department of Commerce set to take effect on November 12, which will block U.S. companies from providing internet hosting and services for the app. 

Nichols' detailed written opinion is expected to be released as soon as Monday.

The restrictive orders by the commerce department were a response to one of two executive orders signed by President Donald Trump – the one to block U.S. companies' transactions with ByteDance Ltd. – TikTok's parent company in Beijing. The other is to takeover TikTok's U.S. operations.

The department on September 18 issued an order banning U.S. transactions with TikTok and messaging app WeChat starting September 20, from which any provision of service to distribute or maintain the WeChat or TikTok mobile applications, constituent code, or application updates through an online mobile application store in the U.S. will be prohibited.

On September 19, it announced an order to delay TikTok's U.S. app store ban, saying that the decision was taken "in light of recent positive developments."

Sunday's ruling is a victory for TikTok after it challenged the ban as unconstitutional and a violation of due process.

The U.S. government's previous executive order was issued without due process, said TikTok after it learned about the restrictions, adding that "it may deprive the American people and small businesses of an important platform for their voice and living." On the same day, TikTok and ByteDance filed the complaint in a Washington federal court.

Read more: 

TikTok slams U.S. action, says will continue to advance proceedings against Trump's executive order

Wang Wenbin, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said on Monday that China has always opposed the U.S.'s generalization of "national security," its abuse of national power, and unreasonable suppression of companies in other countries.  

"We hope that the U.S. will respect the principles of market economy and fair competition, abide by international economic and trade rules, and provide a fair, open, and non-discriminatory business environment for companies from all over the world," said Wang.

U.S. officials have alleged national security concerns over the short-video sharing app due to its Chinese ties, although TikTok has reiterated many times that all its data is stored on servers in the U.S., with a backup in Singapore, while making efforts to deal with the U.S. government's security concerns. 

Read more: Timeline: How TikTok struggled with Trump's political attacks

ByteDance said on September 20 it had a preliminary deal for Walmart Inc. and Oracle Corp. to take stakes in its subsidiary, TikTok Global. Negotiations continue over the terms of the agreement and to resolve concerns from Washington and Beijing.

The deal is still to be reviewed by the U.S. government's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), and by China's Ministry of Commerce given it is subject to a revised Catalogue of Technologies Prohibited and Restricted from Export.

Bytedance said early Thursday that it has applied for a license with the Beijing commerce authority in line with China's tech export requirements. 

Read more: MOFCOM: Will handle Bytedance's application based on laws

U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Pennsylvania on Saturday rejected a bid by three TikTok content creators to block the ban.

The content creators argued they would "lose access to tens of thousands of potential viewers and creators every month, an effect amplified by the looming threat to close TikTok altogether."

The judge wrote that the ban is "undoubtedly an inconvenience" but said in denying the request "they will still be able to create, publish, and share content for their millions of current followers."

Earlier, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco blocked the U.S. Commerce Department from requiring Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google to remove Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat for downloads.

Read more: U.S. judge halts order to remove WeChat from app stores

(Cover via CFP)