TikTok has, once again, managed to evade a ban on new downloads of the video-sharing app from app stores. Late Sunday evening, Judge Carl Nicholas acted to block a ban which would mean Apple and Google would have to remove TikTok from their respective app stores. The judge made his decision at 8PM ET, but it has been sealed and is awaiting approval from both sides.
Although the ban would have meant that existing users would still have access to the popular social media app, they wouldn’t be able to receive new security updates (which is seemingly counterintuitive if TikTok is a national security threat) and TikTok argues that new users are the “lifeblood” of the app. Attorney John Hall argued: “If it disappears from the app stores, the effect would be devastating with respect to users, content, creators, and would damage its reputation with advertisers.”
Hall also argued that the ban is “arbitrary and capricious,” and would shut down speech, although the government’s lawyers said such claims don’t apply because the Trump administration considers TikTok a national security threat.
On August 6, President Trump signed an executive order that meant TikTok would have to sell its US operations by September 20. He said the app, along with Chinese-owned WeChat, was a threat to national security due to its links with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). On August 14, Trump extended the deadline by a further 45 days, giving TikTok until November 12 to confirm a deal that would satisfy both the US and its parent company ByteDance.
On September 19, a deal was struck between ByteDance, Oracle, and Walmart which would make four out of five of TikTok’s board members American and set up a new company called TikTok Global. President Trump first endorsed the deal, saying it had his blessing. However, when it was revealed the details were murkier than first realized, and that ByteDance would still have a majority share until the company went global next year, there was a spanner in the works.
This deal gave TikTok an extra week before the most recent order issued by the Commerce Department on September 18 – the one that would block new downloads – would come into effect. Last week, the Trump administration was given until Friday to file legal papers to defend its position ahead of the Sunday morning hearing.
Speaking to The Verge, a TikTok spokesperson said the company was happy with the judge’s decision and plans to “maintain our ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the President gave his preliminary approval to last weekend, into an agreement.”