Chinese Apps TikTok, WeChat Won't Be Banned

John Lister's picture

A judge has blocked a Department of Commerce ban on a Chinese messaging app. The judge said there wasn't enough specific evidence against the app to override free speech complaints.

The department introduced the ban on WeChat (along with video app TikTok) following an executive order from the President. The ban meant it was illegal for app stores to distribute or update the apps in the US. The ban also outlawed US use of WeChat's mobile payment facility, which is hugely popular with American citizens of Asian descent. One estimate puts the number of US users at 19 million.

In both cases, the executive order and ban were based on the argument that the apps collected personal data and were operated by businesses that are forced to cooperate with China's intelligence services. The Department of Commerce said this created "unacceptable risks to our national security." (Source:


TikTok Finds US Solution

TikTok appears to have already found a way round the ban by striking a deal with Oracle and Walmart. They'll buy in to the company and set up a new US operation. Oracle will store all TikTok data from US users and will have the right to inspect the app's source code to make sure no sensitive information is being passed to China.

Contrastingly, US users of WeChat challenged the executive order in court. US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler granted a preliminary injunction which means the order's legal effect is temporarily suspended.

Free Speech At Stake

Beeler wasn't ruling on whether the order itself was legal, but rather that there was a credible possibility of the arguments against it being upheld. In particular, she said there were "serious questions" about whether the ban constituted an unfair restriction of free speech. (Source:

She said the court system would need to decide not only if there was enough specific evidence of a security risk from WeChat to justify measures against it, but also if an outright ban was a narrow enough response to the risk or too broad to be justified.

The case will likely now go to an appeals court.


What's Your Opinion?

Should the President have the power to ban apps from the US through an executive order? How should the legal system balance free speech against security risks? Should such issues have hard-and-fast rules or be more about the specific evidence and circumstances of each situation?

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kitekrazy's picture

One could make the case this is another judge trying to flex their power. Could it be another decision by anti Trump judge? The case could be made since the judge is in San Fran.CA.

Then again it most likely violates free speech.

I found a page with some comments. Political bias creates a cesspool of ignorance.

I've never met a person out of the so called 20 million who use this app.

When you install anything you are giving up something especially if it's free.

davolente_10330's picture

Blessing? Does Trump think he's an alternative pope now, on top of everything else he falsely considers himself to be? I'm looking at this from the other side of the pond, so maybe the nuances of American high finance escape me but since when has the president been involved in what seems to me to be essentially a private business arrangement? Can't see this happening under previous administrations. The whole affair seems to me to be typical Trump hot air and bluster and has only happened after his rally attendance was sabotaged by TikTok users. Vindictive is probably the best description of Trump's actions, as far as I can see, and the "deal" is a very strange arrangement.