TikTok US Ban Delayed As Trump Expresses Deal Approval

The US Commerce Department has delayed a decision on banning TikTok in the US by a week, until 27 November.

The move came after after US president Donald Trump said he approved a partnership between TikTok and US companies Oracle and Wal-Mart “in concept”.

Trump said on Saturday that the deal would secure the data of the 100 million US citizens who use TikTok.

“The security will be 100 percent,” he said at a press event.

He said he had “given the deal my blessing”, adding: “I approve the deal in concept.”

Image credit: US government

‘Here to stay’

TikTok and parent company ByteDance welcomed Trump’s approval of the proposed deal, with TikTok interim chief executive Vanessa Pappas saying on Saturday that the app was “here to stay” in the US.

TikTok said the deal would meet US national security requirements, while ByteDance said it was working to make an agreement that would be “in line with US and Chinese law” as soon as possible.

The US Commerce Department said it would delay banning TikTok in the “light of recent positive developments”.

Trump’s comments came a day after he had issued a Friday executive order that would have banned TikTok from US app stores as of Sunday, while pushing the date for a complete ban back to 12 November.

The Friday order also barred US distribution of WeChat, one of the most widely used communications platforms in China.

First amendment

However, a judge on Sunday blocked the order from taking place, citing questions around free speech.

US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said banning WeChat may violate the US constitution’s first amendment, which guarantees free speech.

WeChat users who filed a lawsuit “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim, the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs’ favour”, Beeler wrote.

The prohibitions “burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government’s significant interest in national security, especially given the lack of substitute channels for communication”, Beeler said in a 22-page preliminary injunction.

The injunction also blocks a Commerce Department order that would have barred other transactions with WeChat in the US and significantly degraded the service’s usability for current US users or possibly made it unusable.

National security

The TikTok and WeChat bans were to take place on Sunday, 20 September, following a 45-day period established by an executive order announced by Trump on 6 August.

Reports citing unnamed sources said ByteDance was considering a US market flotation for TikTok Global, the new company that would operate the short video app, if the proposed deal were cleared by the US government.

The administration argues TikTok and WeChat pose a threat to US national security due to the large amounts of data they collect on users. ByteDance and Tencent deny posing such a threat.

Tencent said the decision was “unfortunate”.

The company said it is “reviewing the latest announcement” and said WeChat”has always incorporated the highest standards of user privacy and data security” outside China.

The deal being evaluated by the US government would make Oracle TikTok’s “trusted technology partner” in the US.

Officials had previously said the deal falls short of the US administration’s security requirements.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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