TikTok Judge Skeptical of Need for New Order Blocking Trump Ban
(Bloomberg) -- A federal judge in Washington appeared reluctant to issue another order halting a proposed U.S. ban on video-sharing app TikTok, noting that a judge in Pennsylvania had already blocked the government’s plan Friday.
By putting the ban on hold, the Pennsylvania order “forecloses most if not all of TikTok’s arguments” for another injunction in Washington, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said during a hearing Wednesday. Nichols said he may request further court filings on the relationship between the two cases, but suggested a second order isn’t necessary. He didn’t say when he’d rule.
Lawyers for TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., argued that the Pennsylvania ruling could still be overturned on appeal.
The U.S. contends that TikTok is a national security threat, saying it could provide the Chinese government access to the personal data of millions of Americans. President Donald Trump has demanded TikTok be sold to an American company. ByteDance is seeking U.S. approval for a deal to sell a stake in the app to Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. before a ban is slated to go into effect on Nov. 12.
The proposed ban would forbid companies from providing the web services that make TikTok accessible in the U.S. TikTok has sought to block the ban in court in Washington, while an independent group of TikTok users has pursued a separate case in Pennsylvania.
Last week, the judge in the Pennsylvania case, Wendy Beetlestone, issued a temporary injunction blocking the ban, a major victory for TikTok. The prohibitions likely exceeded the government’s authority under the Emergency Powers Act, and would cause irreparable harm to the TikTok users who sought the injunction, shutting down their “influencing activities,” Beetlestone said.
In the Washington case, Nichols previously blocked a separate portion of the proposed ban that would have gone into effect in September and would have prevented TikTok from being downloaded from app stores. The government has appealed that ruling.
Nichols is still considering the rest of the government’s prohibitions. At the hearing on Wednesday, Daniel Schwei, a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice, argued that the order in Pennsylvania effectively renders the case in Washington moot, at least for the time being.
“We think that injunction was incorrect and overly broad and should not have been entered on a nationwide basis,” Schwei said. “But the court rejected those arguments. Now that it has done so, it necessarily precludes plaintiffs from establishing any immediately irreparable harm.”
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