With dozens of court updates filed over the past few weeks, it can be difficult to keep pace – so here’s a look at where the situation stands today.
Where did it all start?
On August 6, Donald Trump issued executive orders targeting the TikTok viral video app and the WeChat messaging app. Orders said both apps would be blocked from processing transactions for U.S. citizens and downloading from U.S. app stores after 45 days, or September 20, due to security concerns. On August 14, Trump said in a separate executive order that TikTok would face a complete ban if it didn’t sell to a U.S. company by November 14.
Lawyers for the Trump administration say it’s in the interests of national security to ban TikTok due to ties between ByteDance, the app’s parent company, and the Chinese government. A government brief called ByteDance a “spokesperson” for the Chinese Communist Party, and said it was “committed to promoting the CCP’s agenda and message.” TikTok has denied the accusations, saying US user data is not processed in China and the company does not give the Chinese government access to US users’ personal information.
In the order, Trump raised similar concerns about a WeChat ban, saying the app “allows[s] access of the Chinese Communist Party to personal and proprietary information of Americans ”. He also claimed that WeChat could be used for disinformation campaigns. WeChat denied the accusations and claimed the ban was racist in nature, saying in a filing that it “singles out people of Chinese and American Chinese descent and subjects them and those who contact them to disparate treatment. on the basis of race, ethnic origin, nationality, national origin and alienation ”.
When asked about a possible ban, Chinese Americans recently told the Guardian that WeChat is a lifeline to connect them with family and friends in China. “It’s really sad,” said a salon owner in Oakland, California. “I moved here 26 years ago and only recently been able to reconnect with my friends and family in China thanks to WeChat. Without it, I’ll be completely cut off.
So can we still use WeChat?
WeChat was also scheduled to be removed from the App Store on September 20, meaning the platform couldn’t acquire new users, and existing users couldn’t download any software updates. Cut off from its users, the app would probably slowly disappear. However, a judge blocked the ban with a preliminary injunction on September 19.
The judge said that while certain Chinese technologies may pose a legitimate threat to U.S. national security, as Trump argued in his executive order, “the specific evidence regarding WeChat is modest,” according to the record.
Due to this injunction, the WeChat ban is on hold pending an appeal from the Trump administration. The judge will address this issue at a hearing on October 15.
On Sunday, September 27, a judge blocked an order from the Trump administration that would have removed TikTok from app stores in the United States. Carl Nichols, a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia, granted an injunction against the order after a hearing on Sunday night, citing ByteDance’s argument that without an injunction he would suffer “irreparable harm Even though the ban was eventually lifted.
“We are pleased that the court accepted our legal arguments and issued an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok app ban,” TikTok said in a statement.
The company also pledged to “maintain our ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the president gave his preliminary approval last weekend, into an agreement.” The Trump administration has not indicated whether it will appeal the injunction.
What “proposal” is TikTok talking about?
Trump has said TikTok could escape the ban if it sells US operations to a US company. Initially, Microsoft was looking to buy the app, but its offer was turned down.
In the end, Trump gave his preliminary approval to a deal that would sell the U.S. operations to U.S. companies Walmart and Oracle. TikTok has more than 100 million users in the United States, according to court documents.
Is TikTok finished yet?
Although the initial ban has been blocked, the Trump administration could appeal, and the Nov. 14 deadline is still looming for ByteDance to finalize a deal.
Details of the deal with Oracle and Walmart are still being worked out. As part of the current deal, ByteDance will split its US operations into a new company called TikTok Global. Oracle will serve as the data host for the new operation and will hold a 12.5% stake in it. Walmart will hold an additional 7.5%. But the remaining 80% will be held by ByteDance.
Justice Nichols declined to take action on the broader ban set out in the initial executive order that will take effect Nov. 12 – if TikTok cannot finalize a deal with U.S. companies.
To do so, the United States could ask Internet service providers to block the use of TikTok from American IP addresses, as India has done by banning TikTok, thus rendering TikTok unusable.