Judge Blocks US Ban on New TikTok Downloads

    28 September 2020

    A U.S. judge has temporarily blocked a Trump administration order to ban new downloads of the popular video-sharing app TikTok. The order would have barred Apple and Google from offering TikTok in their app stores beginning Monday.

    TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company.

    U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols issued the order late Sunday in Washington. His order did not block additional TikTok restrictions set to take effect on November 12. Those include technical and business measures needed for the app to work correctly.

    The U.S. Department of Commerce said in a statement it would obey the judge's order. The statement did not say whether the government planned to appeal the decision. The Commerce Department defended the TikTok order, as well as an executive order by Trump demanding that ByteDance stop its U.S. operations.

    A logo of a smartphone app TikTok is seen on a user post on a smartphone screen Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
    A logo of a smartphone app TikTok is seen on a user post on a smartphone screen Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

    The Trump administration has said it considers TikTok a national security threat because it collects personal information on 100 million Americans who use the app. The administration says that information could be taken by the Chinese government.

    The judge's action came as negotiations were already happening on a deal for TikTok to enter a partnership with U.S. companies. That deal involves Walmart Inc and Oracle, which both would take stakes in TikTok Global, a new company. It would permit the two companies to supervise U.S. operations of TikTok Global. President Trump has said he would favor the deal.

    But some central terms of the agreement – including who will have majority ownership - remain in dispute. ByteDance has also said any deal will need to be approved by China. The Chinese government has changed its list of technologies that may be affected by export bans. Those changes give China power over any TikTok deal.

    Chinese state media have said they see no reason for China to approve the deal. They describe it as "bullying and extortion."

    TikTok praised the judge's order and said it would continue its talks with the U.S. government "to turn our proposal...into an agreement."

    John E. Hall is a lawyer for TikTok. He argued before Sunday's ruling that the attempted ban was "unprecedented" and unreasonable. He asked how the ban made sense when a negotiated agreement could make it unnecessary. Hall called the Trump administration's ban "punitive" and said it was just trying to hurt the company. "There is simply no urgency here," he said.

    Representatives for Chinese state media welcomed the judge's ruling.

    Hu Xijin operates the Chinese daily newspaper Global Times. On Monday, he said on Twitter, "I think it is in line with morality, justice and common sense."

    A Justice Department statement said the judge's action gets in the way of a "formal national security judgment of the president." It added that the ruling continues to let ByteDance collect "sensitive and valuable" information from users.

    I'm Alice Bryant.

    Reuters news agency reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    app – n. a mobile phone program that performs a special function

    district – n. an area established by a government for official government business

    injunction – n. an order from a court of law that says something must be done or must not be done

    stake – n. an interest or share in a business

    unprecedented – adj. not done or experienced before

    punitive – adj. intended to punish someone or something

    bullying – n. the act of frightening, hurting, or threatening a smaller or weaker person

    extortion – n. the crime of getting money from someone by the use of force or threats