Attorneys for TikTok argued Sunday morning during a dial-in hearing that a ban by the Trump administration would be “devastating,” and urged a judge to block it until the entire case can be decided. TikTok’s attorney said the ban that would prevent new downloads of TikTok from Apple and Google’s app stores at 11:59PM ET today was essentially “shutting down speech.” But the government’s lawyers argued that First Amendment claims by TikTok don’t apply, because the Trump administration considers the app a national security risk.
On August 6th, President Trump issued an order saying the security concerns about TikTok and WeChat, both China-based apps, constituted a national emergency. He invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which lets him ban transactions between US and foreign entities,
President Trump then issued an order August 14th giving ByteDance 90 days to either sell or spin off its TikTok business in the US. That order is set to go into effect on November 12th and will effectively halt the app’s operations.
On September 18th, the Commerce Department issued an order to block transactions with both TikTok parent company ByteDance and WeChat, effective September 20th.
But on September 19th, a tentative deal was announced that would create a new company, TikTok Global, based in the US and tasked with processing and storage for all US-based TikTok users. Oracle would become TikTok’s trusted security partner under the terms of the deal. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross then delayed the ban until September 27th at 11:59PM.
The app store ban is “arbitrary and capricious,” TikTok attorney John Hall argued Sunday. The company also says that the August 6th order should not apply, since IEEPA excludes information and communication technologies.
“This is one of the fastest growing apps in the world, and those new users are the lifeblood of this business, which is true of any social media platform,” said Hall. “If it disappears from the app stores, the effect would be devastating with respect to users, content, creators, and would damage its reputation with advertisers.”
Lawyers for the US government argued that preventing new users on the app would allow the Commerce department to address the most serious national security risks. But such a ban would also block existing users from receiving new security updates to the app.
US District Judge Carl Nichols said he planned to issue a decision in the case publicly before 11:59PM, but would issue his opinion under seal so both sides could review it in case any sensitive information needs to be redacted.
Video: Judge halts Trump administration’s WeChat ban (Reuters)