TikTok's App Store Ban Blocked By Federal Judge

TikTok was scheduled to be banned from app stores on September 27, but a federal judge issued a last-minute ruling that blocked the US government order. TikTok, for now, remains available in US app stores.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration ordered TikTok and WeChat to be removed from app stores starting September 20. However, TikTok’s deadline was then moved to September 27 after Trump gave his preliminary approval on ByteDance’s transition into a new company called TikTok Global, with Walmart and Oracle owning 20% of the company.

ByteDance then filed for a preliminary injunction on September 23, seeking to prevent TikTok’s imminent removal from app stores. In the motion, the tech company argued that the ban infringed upon its Fifth Amendment right to due process and First Amendment right to free speech. On September 27, a mere few hours before the government order went into effect, Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted TikTok’s preliminary injunction.

In Nichols’ unsealed opinion, he stated that the ban attempted to regulate “informational materials” which was expressly outside of the emergency powers Trump invoked. He also dismissed the relevancy of a law that laid the ground for national security concerns in Trump’s order and concluded, it is “not plausible that the films, photos, art, or even personal information U.S. users share on TikTok fall within the plain meaning of the Espionage Act.”

However, Nichols also rejected TikTok’s request to stop Trump’s executive order that would end all US TikTok operations on November 12 if formal approval for ByteDance’s partnership with Oracle and Walmart is not granted.

Formal approval is uncertain at this time, especially since ByteDance and the Trump administration appear to view ByteDance’s deal with Oracle and Walmart differently. Trump, along with Oracle, have stated that ByteDance would lose its ownership in the organization once TikTok Global was created, while ByteDance has said it still would retain majority ownership until the company goes public next year.

The situation is further complicated by possible opposition to TikTok’s deal from the Chinese government. The Chinese government updated its export regulations on tech and now “recommendation(s) of personalized information services based on data analysis” are subject to further scrutiny and limitations. This export regulation most likely relates to TikTok’s recommendation algorithm and could possibly affect TikTok’s final deal with Oracle, Walmart, and the Trump administration. TikTok has applied for an export license, but it’s unclear if the application is related to the company’s plans for TikTok Global.

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