A federal judge in Washington, D.C., granted TikTok a preliminary injunction against the ban, which was set to take effect this past Sunday at midnight and would’ve forced TikTok to be removed from app stores. The ruling did not address other restrictions in the Executive Order that will take effect on November 12th and will make the app harder to use for those already on it.
Lawyers for TikTok argued that taking the app away was essentially a violation of the rights of users to share their views, both weeks before an election and during pandemic that’s limited real-life interactions. John Hall, one of the app’s attorneys, said a ban would “be no different from the government locking the doors to a public forum.”
Following the ruling, a TikTok spokesperson said: “We’re pleased that the court agreed with our legal arguments and issued an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok app ban. 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 Commerce Department said it would “comply with the injunction,” but “intends to vigorously defend the [Executive Order] and the secretary’s implementation efforts from legal challenges.”
Back in August, Trump issued an Executive Order demanding TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, divest from its U.S. ownership in the app or face being banned in the country. The administration cited national security concerns as the reason for the EO, including the safety of American users’ data and control over TikTok’s underlying code and algorithm, which comes with the ability to potentially boost or stymie the spread of certain information and content.
One way to halt the EO was for ByteDance to sell TikTok to an American company, and, earlier this month, tech giant Oracle seemed primed to become the app’s technology partner in the U.S. Oracle ended up partnering with Walmart to complete the deal — which even had Trump’s preliminary blessing — but there have been continued disagreements over how much control ByteDance will retain. Trump has since suggested he would scuttle the deal if Oracle/Walmart don’t have total control, while the Chinese government could also stop it, thanks to recent regulations changes that stipulate Beijing has to give its permission to any company wishing to sell to a foreign buyer.