A federal judge in Washington, DC has blocked the Trump administration’s economic sanctions against TikTok as lawsuits continue.
A U.S. federal judge has blocked attempts by President Donald Trump to ban TikTok, the administration’s latest legal defeat as it tries to wrest the popular app from its Chinese owners.
The Trump administration had attempted to ban the short-form video app from smartphone app stores in the United States and cut it off from vital technical services. TikTok sued, arguing that such actions would violate freedom of expression and the right to due process.
Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, said Monday in a ruling that the Commerce Department had “likely overstepped” its use of presidential emergency powers “and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by failing to consider not the obvious alternatives ”.
Nichols is the second federal judge to completely block the Trump administration’s economic sanctions against the app as court proceedings progress.
The Trump administration has alleged that TikTok is a security threat because the Chinese government could spy on the personal data of users of the app. TikTok has denied it was a security threat, but said it is still trying to work with the administration to resolve its concerns.
Trump in September gave his interim blessing to a proposal from ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok. ByteDance’s plan was aimed at solving US national security concerns by investing US companies Oracle and Walmart in TikTok. Oracle is reportedly handling US user data under the deal, but a federal agency is still expected to review and finalize a deal.
A government deadline for ByteDance to finalize the deal was passed on Friday, and the status of the deal is unclear.
The Treasury Department, which chairs the agency responsible for reviewing the agreement, said on Friday that the agency “is engaging with ByteDance to complete divestment and other necessary steps to address national security risks arising from the transaction”.
The aggressive tactics of the Trump administration are part of its latest attempt to counter China’s influence. Since taking office in 2017, Trump has waged a trade war with China, blocked mergers involving Chinese companies, and stifled activities from Chinese companies like Huawei, which makes phones and telecommunications equipment.
Although President-elect Joe Biden has said TikTok is a concern, it is not clear whether his administration will continue the Trump administration’s ongoing attempts to secure a ban or increase participation by U.S. companies.