TikTok download ban temporarily blocked by US judge in a blow to the Trump administration

a close up of a cell phone: Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

© Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

  • A federal judge on Sunday ruled in favor of TikTok, blocking the Trump administration’s temporary download ban set to take place tonight at 11:59 p.m.
  • TikTok has been a target of the Trump administration since July, and last month, the president signed a pair of executive orders against the app and its Chinese owner, ByteDance, leading to the download ban.
  • The president said last week that a deal between ByteDance and US-based Oracle and Walmart had his “blessing,” but the deal has been muddled due to conflicting statements from the involved companies.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A federal judge on Sunday ruled against the Trump administration in granting TikTok an injunction against a temporary download ban that was set to take place tonight at 11:59 p.m. 

The specifics of the order remained sealed by the judge and will be reviewed on Monday to determine if they will be made public.

“We’re pleased that the court agreed with our legal arguments and issued an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok app ban,” TikTok said in a statement following the ruling. “We will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees.

“At the same time, we will also maintain our ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the President gave his preliminary approval to last weekend, into an agreement,” the company added.

On Wednesday, TikTok filed for the preliminary injunction against the Justice Department order, which would ban downloads of the TikTok app in the US beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. As Business Insider’s Paige Leskin previously reported, lawyers for TikTok filed the request as part of TikTok’s lawsuit against the US government, which challenges the legality of the president’s proposed ban.

In the complaint, lawyers for the company argued Trump’s order is unconstitutional, citing violations to their First Amendment and due process rights. The ban had been set to go into place last week, although the Department of Commerce previously announced the ban had been extended due to “recent positive developments” concerning the app’s sale.

During the Sunday morning dial-in hearing, lawyers for TikTok argued the download ban was “arbitrary and capricious” and should be halted until a final ruling until was made in the company’s entire lawsuit against the Trump administration, as The Verge reported Sunday.

The deal, announced last week, would involve US companies Oracle and Walmart and has been muddled in confusion since with conflicting statements over who will ultimately have control over the app. Both China and the US have hinted they could block the deal.

While Trump initially said he gave the deal his “blessing,” he said in a Monday interview on Fox News that he would not support the deal unless Oracle and Walmart had “total control” over the social media platform, as Business Insider previously reported. Oracle’s deal was announced mere hours after a bid from Microsoft, an early frontrunner to acquire TikTok, was rejected by ByteDance.

The download wouldn’t have prevented existing users from using the app, but it would’ve prohibited new downloads of TikTok on the Apple App Store and Google Play store. TikTok would also have been prevented from releasing updates to the app. The app would be banned entirely from the US beginning on November 12, the Commerce Department previously announced. 

A group of three TikTok creators filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s ban, but a judge in Pennsylvania denied their request this weekend for a temporary injunction, arguing the download ban won’t cause “immediate, irreparable harm” since the creators would still be able to post to the app’s existing userbase, The Verge reported.

The ruling in favor of TikTok’s injunction request delivers a blow to Trump’s months-long plans to ban the app in the US. In July, Trump first suggested he might ban the app, citing concerns about its Chinese ownership. TikTok has repeatedly denied that it shares US user data with the Chinese government, despite baseless claims from Trump’s administration. In August, the president signed two executive orders targeting TikTok, leading to the Commerce Department’s September 18 announcement about the download ban.

Still, criticism of TikTok has been bipartisan. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has likewise called for a US company to assume ownership of the video-based social platform.

In December 2019, the US military banned the app from government-owned devices. In July, the campaign of Democratic nominee Joe Biden asked its staff to delete the application from their phones. 

The judge’s Sunday ruling impacts TikTok and does not appear to affect the Commerce Department’s download ban on WeChat, the messaging app used by millions in the US. A federal judge in California on September 20 issued a preliminary injunction against the download ban on WeChat, which the Commerce Department said it planned to challenge.

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