(Washington) US users can continue to download TikTok and its updates, at least for now, thanks to a US judge who blocked the suspension of the application ordered by the administration on Sunday. Trump in the name of national security.
Posted September 27, 2020 at 8:47 PM
Updated at 9:30 PM
Donald Trump signed an executive order in early August to ban the highly popular social network belonging to the Chinese group ByteDance unless it falls into the lap of an American company.
Hours before the government's decision to ban the app from download platforms took effect, Judge Carl Nicholas ruled in favor of TikTok, which appealed on September 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.
During a telephone hearing on Sunday morning, his lawyers said blocking downloads of the app would be unconstitutional and violate the right to free speech, especially in the run-up to the Nov. 3 presidential election.
"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 […] that is all the more important in times of pandemic," attorney John Hall argued Sunday fight. "If the ban takes effect, it will be like the government is blocking 2/3 of the land from coming to the agora."
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.
And interrupting updates would ironically "erode security" for the current 100 million US users, Hall added.
For its part, the government 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.
The political ball
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, to 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.
The White House host, who campaigned for reelection, insisted this week that he would not approve if the new group remained under Chinese control, claiming that Oracle and Walmart would own the majority.
ByteDance, which includes US investors, called the information "false rumors".
But ByteDance announced that it had made an "authorization request" to export technology, without specifying on what subject.
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.