Trump TikTok Restrictions Blocked by Judge in Win for Users
The TikTok logo is displayed in the app store in view of a video feed of U.S. President Donald Trump in London, U.K. (Photographer: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg)

Trump TikTok Restrictions Blocked by Judge in Win for Users

A federal judge in Pennsylvania blocked a broad set of government restrictions designed to curb the use of the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok in the U.S.

U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a temporary injunction on Friday blocking the TikTok ban in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of plaintiffs who use TikTok to make a living. The proposed rules, scheduled to go into effect Nov. 12, would forbid companies from providing the underlying web services that make the app accessible in the U.S.

The U.S. contends that TikTok is a national security threat because its ownership by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd. gives the Chinese government access to the personal data of millions of Americans. President Donald Trump has demanded that ByteDance find an American buyer for TikTok, and the company is seeking U.S. approval for a deal to sell a stake in the app to Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. ahead of the Nov. 12 deadline.

In Friday’s ruling, Beetlestone said the TikTok prohibitions likely exceed the government’s authority under the emergency powers act it has repeatedly invoked to justify the ban. She also wrote that the ban would cause “irreparable harm” to the TikTok users who sought the injunction, shutting down their “influencing activities.”

“Plaintiffs will lose the ability to engage with their millions of followers on TikTok, and the related brand sponsorships,” she wrote. The judge had previously ruled against the app users in September in an earlier phase of their case.

“We are deeply moved by the outpouring of support from our creators, who have worked to protect their rights to expression, their careers, and to helping small businesses, particularly during the pandemic,” Vanessa Pappas, interim head of TikTok, said in a statement. “We stand behind our community as they share their voices, and we are committed to continuing to provide a home for them to do so.”

A lawyer for the three TikTok creators who brought the Pennsylvania case hailed the ruling as a victory for free speech.

“We are pleased that the judge has halted this ban, which exceeds the president’s authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act,” attorney Ambika Kumar Doran said in a statement.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A federal judge in Washington previously blocked a separate portion of Trump’s ban that would have gone into effect in September and prevented TikTok from being downloaded from app stores. The administration has cited national security concerns in trying to ban another Chinese app, WeChat, and that move has also been blocked by a U.S. judge.

In the Washington case, lawyers for TikTok are also seeking to block the broader Nov. 12 prohibitions. In a filing on Friday, TikTok’s legal team argued that the ban exceeded the government’s authority, and cited the ruling in Pennsylvania.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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