On Friday the US Department of Commerce announced that US app stores would not be able to do business with WeChat.
But at the weekend that ban was blocked by a US Magistrate Judge in San Francisco in response to a lawsuit filed by WeChat users calling themselves the WeChat Alliance.
The users argued that by banning WeChat, the US government had violated the First Amendment and targeted Chinese-Americans who use the app to speak to family and friends in China.
It’s important to note that apps such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp aren’t easily accessible in China.
“The plaintiffs contend that the prohibited transactions will result in shutting down WeChat, a public square for the Chinese-American and Chinese-speaking community in the U.S. that is effectively their only means of communication with their community. This, they say, is a prior restraint on their speech that does not survive strict scrutiny. Also, even if the effect of the prohibited transactions is a content-neutral time-place-or-manner restriction, it does not survive intermediate scrutiny because the effective ban on WeChat use is not narrowly tailored to address the government’s significant interest in national security,” wrote Judge Laurel Beeler.
The judge did however note the US Government’s security concerns but went on to say that the ban was an over-reach and other ways to protect the US from interference by foreign entities should be explored.
“Certainly the government’s overarching national-security interest is significant. But on this record — while the government has established that China’s activities raise significant national security concerns — it has put in scant little evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all U.S. users addresses those concerns. And, as the plaintiffs point out, there are obvious alternatives to a complete ban, such as barring WeChat from government devices, as Australia has done, or taking other steps to address data security,” wrote Beeler.
As for TikTok, its prohibition was delayed following President Donald Trump’s approval of a deal between Oracle and TikTok which would see the creation of TikTok Global which would be based in the US.
The deal is still pending but it could see TikTok saved from the red white and blue axe, so long as it is finalised before the new deadline of 27th September.[Source – Reuters]