The Trump administration's curbs on WeChat were put on hold by a judge, and maintained an attempt to stop the use of the Chinese-owned app in the United States
U.S. Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction at the request of a group of US WeChat users, who claimed that the bans would violate the freedom of expression of millions of Chinese-speaking Americans who trust it. The app, which was to disappear from US app stores on Sunday, has 19 million regular users in the US and 1 billion worldwide.
The ruling means that neither WeChat nor TikTok, another Chinese-owned mobile app targeted by President Donald. Trump's executive order will immediately become unavailable in the US Trump cited national security concerns by banning the apps, but TikTok Inc. and the WeChat user group have said the president is trying to bolster the chances of re-election by attacking China and Chinese companies.
WeChat "serves as a virtual public square for the Chinese-speaking and Sino-American community in the United States and is (as a practical matter) their only means of communication," the judge wrote in the ruling, dated Saturday. and released early Sunday. Effective banning it "precludes meaningful access to communication in society and thus serves as a prior restriction on their right to freedom of expression."
The judge found that the government provided insufficient evidence of a security threat. "Certainly the government's overall national security interest is significant," she wrote. "But in this post ̵
The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Trade did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The government will probably appeal the ruling.
The ruling is likely to survive if appealed to the Ninth Circuit, said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.
"Judge Beeler's ruling seems very cautious, especially in finding that the plaintiffs have sufficiently complied with the requirements to enter into a preliminary injunction on the requirement for the first amendment," Tobias said. "The judge also deals with the weaker parts of both the plaintiffs' and the government's arguments, in particular the lack of evidence presented by the government, and finds that the plaintiffs are better off."
Michael Bien, a lawyer for the American WeChat Users Alliance, said that the United States "has never closed a major communication platform, not even in wartime."
"There are serious First Amendment issues with the WeChat ban, which are directed at Chinese American society and trampled on their First Amendment guaranteed freedoms to speak, worship, read and respond to the press and organize and associate for many purposes , "He said in a statement.
The United States has claimed that WeChat is a threat because its owner, Tencent. Holdings Ltd., has merged with the Chinese Communist Party, which can use the app to spread propaganda, track users and steal their private and proprietary data.It is a similar argument used by the administration to target the TikTok app, while also forcing the sale of that app's operations in the US.
The US government delayed plans to ban the download of TikTok, the popular video-sharing app, after Trump said he approved Oracle Corp.'s bid for the US operation of TikTok "in the draft." The TikTok ban was also set to expire in force on Sunday, but the order is delayed until 27 September. TikTok sues Washington, DC
At a court hearing Saturday, Bien said the limitations for WeChat are far crying from the "narrowly tailored" measures the government is required to impose so as not to unnecessarily restrict people's constitutional rights.
Michael Drezner, a government lawyer, said during the hearing that the anxiety and insecure US WeChat users may experience due to the bans does not entitle them to an order stopping the implementation of the restrictions. Their reliance on WeChat is a result of China's ban on other social media, which has made WeChat the exclusive Chinese government – controlled alternative for them to communicate with people in China, according to Drezner.
Drezner also noted that the app will remain. available for use by people who already have it on their phones, although usage will deteriorate over time because updates will not be available. But Beeler responded that the app's ability to work would be "essentially removed."
Beeler had rejected a request for a preliminary injunction on Friday, which the users had applied for on the grounds that the confession was too vague. The Ministry of Commerce on Friday described which transactions with WeChat and its Chinese parent company are not permitted under 6 August. The judge scheduled the hearing on Saturday in response to a revived request from the user group.
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