(Washington) US TikTok users are stunning: A US judge on Sunday blocked the suspension of the app ordered by the Trump administration in the name of national security.
Posted September 27, 2020 at 8:47 PM
Updated September 28, 2020 at 6:20 AM
Donald Trump signed an executive order in early August to force TikTok, which is owned by China's ByteDance, to fly the US flag. The White House tenant had threatened without an agreement to ban the social network in the United States.
The first step in this ban was to remove the app from download platforms in the United States. But on Sunday, judge Carl Nicholas ruled in extremis against TikTok, which had filed an appeal on Sept. 18.
However, the magistrate, appointed by Donald Trump in 2019, has so far refused to suspend the total ban on the app on US soil, scheduled for November 12.
The grounds for his decision have been sealed to protect potentially confidential information, but will be released Monday once the two sides agree.
"We are convinced that the court agreed with our legal arguments and prevented the ban from being implemented," said TikTok.
The Department of Commerce said it would comply with the judge's ruling, but planned to "vigorously defend the presidential decree against legal pitfalls."
"Much more than an application"
During a telephone hearing on Sunday morning, TikTok lawyers said blocking app downloads would be unconstitutional and violate the right to free speech, especially in the run-up to the presidential election on November 3rd.
"TikTok is much more than an application, it is the modern version of the public forum, it is a community, it is a means of communication […] all the more important in times of pandemic," argued attorney John Hall. "If the ban goes into effect, it will be as if the government would prevent 2/3 of the country from coming to Agora," the public square of ancient Greece.
The platform also assured that this would do it irreparable damage in terms of growth, as it gained about 424,000 new US users per day at the beginning of the summer.
For its part, the government sees ByteDance as a "spokesman" for the Chinese Communist Party and says it wants to prevent new users from being exposed to the risk of their data being looted by China.
Donald Trump has long accused TikTok of spying on his users on Beijing's behalf, without evidence.
Since his decree, negotiations, swear words at the top and turns in the courts have followed each other. If the negotiations fail, a complete ban on network activities on US soil could go into effect as of Nov. 12, the Treasury warns.
So much pressure rejected by the Chinese regime.
On Monday, a spokesman for Chinese diplomacy, Wang Wenbin, called on Washington to create a "fair" and "non-discriminatory" business environment for the United States and punished "the intimidation" companies.
A coveted algorithm
TikTok confirmed an agreement last weekend to create a new company, TikTok Global, with Oracle as a technology partner in the United States and Walmart as a business partner.
There would also be a 12.5% stake in Oracle and 7.5% in Walmart. The Americans would hold four of the five seats on the board.
But completion depends on the goodwill of the US President and the Chinese government.
"We are continuing our ongoing dialogue with the government to finalize this project, which the President has given preliminary approval," TikTok said Sunday evening.
The app with short videos, mostly musical and humorous, has become the new symbol of the struggle between the United States and China for dominance in the high-tech sector.
ByteDance announced that it had submitted a "request for authorization" to export technology to the Chinese authorities, without specifying its nature.
This initiative could relate to the famous algorithm that made TikTok's success: it allows users to show the content that is most likely to interest them, depending on their tastes, and lead them spend time possible to watch video after video on the platform.
China refuses to let this precious computer system fall into the hands of the United States.