A federal judge in Pennsylvania has issued a statewide injunction blocking President Donald Trump’s November 12 ban on the use of TikTok, a Chinese video broadcast app. It is unclear whether the Trump administration will appeal the decision.
In her decision, Judge Wendy Beetlestone described the Trump administration’s national security concerns regarding TikTok as “formulated in hypothetical terms.
Three TikTok users, each of whom has over 1 million followers and bases their personal business on the app, filed a lawsuit to stop Trump from banning the app. Among their arguments, the users argued that the videos they created with the app deserved legal protection.
“The short videos created and shared on TikTok are expressive and informative, analogous to the ‘movies’, ‘artwork’, ‘photographs’ and ‘communications’ that are expressly protected by [the International Emergency Economic Powers Act],” Beetlestone wrote.
The law allows the president to stop international business transactions, but only transactions of certain types and under certain circumstances.
The president accused TikTok of posing a risk to Americans’ personal information because of its Chinese ownership. On August 6, he signed an executive order banning TikTok and WeChat, a Chinese news exchange app.
“This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party to access personal and proprietary information of Americans – potentially enabling China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, create dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and engage in corporate espionage,” Trump wrote in the executive order that would have prohibited Americans from making transactions with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance.
Around the same time, the U.S. Senate unanimously decided to ban federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices.
Then, in September, the U.S. Department of Commerce outlined its expectations for the removal of TikTok from U.S. app stores and measures to prevent U.S. web companies from using the app. Court rulings have prevented its entry into force, but the Department of Commerce can still force ByteDance to sell parts of TikTok and to a U.S.-based company.
Tekk.tv has asked the White House for comments.
“This executive order risks undermining the confidence of global companies in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law, which has acted as a magnet for investment and boosted decades of American economic growth,” TikTok said in a statement received by Tekk.tv. “And it sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free speech and open markets.
ByteDance has held talks with retailer Walmart and software company Oracle about investing in a new U.S.-based TikTok unit, but according to the Washington Post, no deal has yet been closed.
TikTok has over 100 million users in the U.S. and over 700 million worldwide. Half of US users use the app daily, according to court documents.