Second Judge Blocks US Commerce Dept TikTok Restrictions

The protracted battle between the Trump Administration and Chinese tech took another twist this week after ByteDance secured an important injunction in an American courtroom.

According to Reuters, US District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington on Monday granted a preliminary injunction blocking the US Commerce Department from imposing restrictions on TikTok. The restrictions would have effectively barred TikTok’s use in the United States.

It comes after the US Commerce Dept in late November had granted TikTok’s Chinese owners (ByteDance) a new seven day extension of the order to sell the company.

Preliminary injunction

ByteDance earlier in November had filed a challenge to the order in a US appeals court.

That challenge resulted in US judge Wendy Beetlestone in Pennsylvania blocking the same restrictions that were due to take effect on 12 November.

It should be noted that Judge Nichols on 27 September had separately blocked the Commerce Department from banning Apple and Alphabet’s Google app stores from offering the app for downloads by new users.

A TikTok spokesman quoted by Reuters said the firm was “pleased that the court agreed with us and granted a preliminary injunction.”

Judge Nichols reportedly said the Commerce Department “likely overstepped” its legal authority in issuing the effective TikTok ban “and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by failing to consider obvious alternatives.”

The Commerce Department said it would “vigorously defend” Trump’s August executive order that authorised the restrictions and said it “is fully consistent with law and promotes legitimate national security interests. The government will continue to comply with the injunctions.”

Nichols’ order stops the agency from barring data hosting within the United States for TikTok, content delivery services and other technical transactions.

No extension

Last Friday, the Trump administration had reportedly declined to grant ByteDance a new extension of Trump’s August order requiring it to divest TikTok’s US assets, but talks will continue, Reuters also reported.

Meanwhile a US appeals court will also hear arguments on Nichols’ app store ban injunction on 14 December.

The Trump order against TikTok forced ByteDance to consider offers from several companies, before settling on an arrangement that would shift its US operations into a new company called TikTok Global, in which US firms Oracle and Walmart would have a stake.

The Trump executive order against TikTok (and WeChat owner Tencent) was because the US believes they pose a national security risk because the app collects data on users, which “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”

ByteDance bought Shanghai-based in 2017 and used it as the basis for TikTok, which became the first Chinese social media app to become broadly popular in the US.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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