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US court expands injunction against Donald Trump’s TikTok ban

By | Published on Wednesday 9 December 2020


A US judge has expanded a preliminary injunction in favour of TikTok owner Bytedance which is seeking to overturn executive orders issued by President Donald Trump against the video-sharing app.

Trump issued two executive orders against China-based Bytedance back in August. The first banned US citizens and businesses from transacting with the company, the second ordered the TikTok owner to divest its American assets. Both orders were based on concerns that, because Bytedance is a Chinese company, the Chinese government has access to TikTok’s global audience and user-data.

Bytedance has been trying to placate its critics in Washington by cutting American companies Oracle and Walmart into the global TikTok business. But concurrent to that it has also been fighting the executive orders in court.

The key legal argument is that Trump’s orders use powers granted to the President by America’s International Emergency Economic Powers Act, but that that act has limitations when it comes to “personal communications” or the sharing of “informational materials”.

A court in Washington DC issued a preliminary injunction in TikTok’s favour back in September halting Trump’s TikTok ban, mainly on the basis that Bytedance’s arguments regarding the limitations of the IEEPA were compelling.

However, prior to that injunction being issued, the office of the US Secretary Of Commerce had provided more detail about the TikTok ban, breaking it down into five specific prohibitions, the first focused on app stores, the others on other internet service providers. Only the first prohibition was due to come into effect at the end of September, with the others applying from mid-November. Therefore the September injunction only dealt with the first prohibition.

Though, before the other prohibitions could come into force, a separate injunction was issued by a court in Pennsylvania following legal action by three TikTok creators. That injunction applied to all five prohibitions. Having heard further evidence from both Bytedance and the US government, the DC court has now also extended its injunction to pause all elements of Trump’s TikTok ban.

With Trump currently unable to talk about anything without quickly lapsing into meaningless waffle about fictional election fraud, it’s not entirely clear where his government is at regarding the terror of TikTok. The extended deadline for getting government approval of the Oracle/Walmart deal – in a bid to satisfy the asset sale order – technically passed last week.

Though political concerns about TikTok and its Chinese owners are not limited to the Trump faction, so simply procrastinating until the Joe Biden government takes over next month isn’t necessarily a solution. That said, dealing with the new executive might be less confusing for TikTok’s lobbyists and lawyers.