WeChat In United States Faces Uncertain Future

Late last week, the U.S. Justice Department appealed a judge’s decision to withhold the government from barring Apple Inc. from allowing Chinese-owned app WeChat to be downloadable in U.S. app stores.

wechatPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the government’s appealing the preliminary junction. The injunction blocks the U.S. Commerce Department order, possibly making the app unusable in the United States.

The Justice Department stated Beeler’s order was a mistake and “permits the continued, unfettered use of WeChat, a mobile application that the Executive Branch has determined is a threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

A group behind the legal challenge to the WeChat ban (Lawyers for the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance), stated on Friday the department “has still presented no compelling national security interest to justify such an unprecedented ban” and will oppose the effort.

WeChat tried to negotiate a settlement with the Commerce Department and offered a number of new measures to address critical security concerns. WeChat users have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim. The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech.

WeChat is popular among Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China, with active usage of 19 million daily users in the United States. WeChat offers users a multi-app “app”; that combines multiple services similar to WhatsApp, Venmo, Facebook, and Instagram combined. The app serves as an essential part of daily life for most of the Chinese population and has over one billion native users.

In Washington D.C., U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols issued a new preliminary injunction halting the U.S. app store ban on new TikTok downloads. Judge Nichols has not decided whether to block other restrictions planned to begin November 12, which could effectively ban the app’s use, depending on a series of court filings due on the last day of October. 

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