Government Appealing Ruling That Blocked U.S. Ban on TikTok Downloads

The Justice Department is appealing a U.S. District Court Judge’s ruling that blocked the nationwide ban on downloads of the popular social media app, TikTok.

US Appeals TikTok BanPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

President Trump issued an Executive Order barring Apple and Google from offering new TikTok downloads and mandated a ban on all U.S. transactions with the company as of September 20, a deadline that was later extended until September 27. When Trump issued the order, he invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which gives the president authorization to declare a national emergency and restrict some — but not all — transactions with foreign countries.

U.S. District Court Judge Nichols, a Trump appointee, ruled that the Department of Commerce could not ban new downloads of the social app. He second- guessed the administration’s claims of security threats posed by the video-sharing app.

The government cites Chinese cyber espionage as the risk the app poses and says the ban on downloads will “minimize the national security threat posed by the company’s aggressive data-collection practices and the Chinese government’s intelligence practices.”

The appeal argues that Judge Nichols ruled incorrectly based on not adequately considering national security interests and the misconception TikTok’s users’ communications lack economic value. If they can prove that value, it can be argued that the ban falls within the president’s power to restrict under the IEEPA.

Walmart and Oracle agreed last month to purchase TikTok and are still in negotiations to take stake in a new company handling US operations, TikTok Global. The main point of contention is who will have majority ownership. However, the uncertainty of the ruling poses its own challenges and risks to reaching an agreement. No matter what deal is ultimately reached, both the U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)  and the Chinese government will need to review the terms.

ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, has looked for likely suitors for some time but has faced a challenge it didn’t anticipate. The exponential growth to 100 million American users of the app has been a plus. To the contrary, the enormous collection of personal data the company now owns is viewed as a security risk.

The appeal’s ruling will have a significant impact on how personal data is viewed in the eyes of the law and will undoubtedly affect the trajectory of TikTok, regardless of who owns the company.

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