Judge blocks Trump attempts to ban China’s WeChat
.NEW YORK, Sept 21: A US judge on Sunday blocked the government's ban on WeChat downloads, hours before it was due to take effect in an ongoing technology and espionage battle between Washington and Beijing.
The Trump administration had ordered a ban on downloads of the messaging platform WeChat as well as hugely popular video-sharing app TikTok, both owned by Chinese companies. Both bans have now been suspended.
A California court ruling said it granted a "motion for a nationwide injunction against the implementation" of the government order on WeChat, with the judge citing concerns over free speech.
The order would have slowed WeChat down and made it unusable in the United States for video chats with family and friends, according to experts.
Owned by technology giant Tencent, WeChat has around 19 million active daily users in the United States.
When contacted by AFP, Tencent declined to comment on the ruling.
The ruling "is a short-term relief for the plaintiffs, who wanted to be sure that the app was not shut down tonight," said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.
If the government appeals and wins, the plaintiffs can appeal that decision. "The plaintiffs wanted ts Saturday announced it was postponing the ban on TikTok downloads until September 27, due to "recent positive developments."
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Friday accused China of using the two apps "to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US."
WeChat is "mostly used by Chinese visiting or working here or by Chinese-Americans staying in touch with their relatives," said William Reinsch of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
That includes several hundred thousand Chinese students in the United States, who use it for daily online conversations.
Trump has often claimed, without providing evidence, that TikTok and WeChat are collecting user data for Beijing.
In early August, he gave ByteDance until September 20 to hand over TikTok's US operations to an American company. -AFP