A US judge has blocked Donald Trump’s TikTok ban two weeks before it was set to go into force, in a new blow for the president’s bid to crack down on the Chinese-owned app.
A court suspended the effects of a presidential order that would have effectively stopped TikTok from functioning in the US on November 12, saying the national security justifications for the ban were “hypothetical”.
Mr Trump has promised to crack down on TikTok, which is owned by the Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, claiming it could see Americans’ data being harvested by the Chinese government.
Courts, however, have repeatedly thwarted his efforts to block the app in the US.
ByteDance, under threat of a ban, has agreed a deal to sell TikTok’s American operations to a consortium led by US tech company Oracle, though the deal has stalled amid questions over regulatory approvals from both the US and China.
On Friday, District Judge Wendy Beetlestone granted an injunction preventing the November 12 order from going into effect while it goes through a full appeal. The order would have prevented US internet networks from carrying TikTok data, effectively blocking it without users taking extra steps to reroute their internet traffic.
Three TikTok users, Doug Marland, Cosette Rinab and Alec Chambers - who each have millions of followers and make thousands from sponsored posts on the app - had asked for an injunction arguing the ban broke laws that prevent the president from controlling “informational materials”.
Government lawyers had argued that national security concerns surrounding TikTok outweighed this, but the judge said such concerns were “phrased in the hypothetical”.
A TikTok spokesperson said: “We are deeply moved by the outpouring of support from our creators, who have worked to protect their rights to expression, their careers, and to helping small businesses, particularly during the pandemic. We stand behind our community as they share their voices, and we are committed to continuing to provide a home for them to do so.”
A separate challenge from TikTok itself is due to be heard in court next week.
Friday’s ruling is merely a preliminary injunction while Mr Trump’s order is appealed, so TikTok could still face a ban in the US. However, it may give ByteDance confidence that it can wait until next week’s US election before moving ahead with a sale of its US operations.