A United States judge issued an order this Sunday that prevents the Government of Donald Trump from banning downloads and updates from the Chinese social network TikTok, something that could have happened this midnight, at least until Justice pronounces again.
The magistrate Carl J. Nichols of the federal court of the District of Columbia thus granted the request of the lawyers of the Chinese firm, who were seeking a temporary lock of the possible prohibition while the two parties face each other in court.
Nichols’ decision definitively transfers to Justice a dispute started in August, when Trump issued an executive order that threatened to ban TikTok in the US if the owning firm, China’s ByteDance, did not sell its business in the country to US companies.
According to the President of the United States, the fact that it is an application owned by a Chinese company represents a national security threat because of the existing links in China between the private sector and the Government of the Chinese Communist Party.
After weeks of negotiations, ByteDance reached an agreement in principle with the North American companies Oracle and Walmart, which received preliminary approval from the White House, but in recent days the talks were not bearing fruit and there was a real possibility that Trump would carry out his threat to ban app downloads when finished on Sunday.
A few hours before the ruling, on Sunday morning, Nichols held a hearing in which he heard the government arguments, which affirmed that TikTok is a threat because it collects data about its users and being a Chinese company, then it must collaborate with the intelligence services of that country.
Freedom of expression
For their part, TikTok’s lawyers denied that the company shared data with Chinese authorities, arguing that Trump’s goal is actually to restrict the freedom of expression.
“This case is about freedom of expression and freedom of communication. It is something inherent in the business that has been targeted. TikTok is an application, but it is much more. It is a modern version of communication in the electronic age that has gained popularity especially in the pandemic“said one of the company’s lawyers, Alexander Berengaut.
If the judge had not agreed with ByteDance and the White House had decided to go ahead with its threat, Google y Apple, which control the two main virtual stores for mobile phones, would have been forced to withdraw TikTok from them in the United States, in compliance with the presidential order.
Despite the fact that only two weeks ago the agreement between ByteDance on the one hand and Oracle y Walmart On the other, he seemed on track, in recent days the two parties have offered contradictory versions about whether ByteDance would continue to be a main part of the shareholding of the new company that is created to manage the TikTok business in the US.
According to the version of Oracle and Walmart -which will control 20% of the future firm-, most of the new company will be owned by the United States, but according to ByteDance, they will control the remaining 80% until their IPO with an initial public offering in about a year.
Impact of TikTok
The version of the agreement offered by ByteDance, therefore, would not satisfy the conditions of the executive order de Trump.
That order also establishes that on November 12 the Department of Commerce it would completely veto the use of the application in the country, something that could still happen, since for the moment the judge has not prevented it.
TikTok, which has 100 million users In the US and 700 million worldwide, it is one of the social networks that has grown the most in recent years, and has become the main entertainment for many teenagers and a marketing channel for important celebrities.