TikTok and its fans have gotten a reprieve from a ban just hours away on new downloads and updates of the short-video app by the Trump White House.
A federal judge in a rare Sunday hearing ordered a preliminary injunction for a recent ban on TikTok, just four hours before it’s first stage was set to take effect on Sunday by halting all updates to current users of the app. The ban was issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, implementing an August executive order from President Trump that also calls for an outright ban to any use of TikTok in the U.S. on November 12 — if it’s not sold and effectively turned into a U.S. company by that time. TikTok’s current owner is ByteDance, a company based in China.
TikTok and ByteDance sued President Trump, the Commerce Department and its head Wilbur Ross the day the ban officially came down, after promising do to so when Trump first announced that he was banning the app, citing vague national security concerns. TikTok has surged in popularity over the last year, reaching around 100 million users. Trump also banned WeChat, an app that’s much more popular in China, where it’s also based. That ban has also been temporarily blocked by a federal judge in California, citing freedom of speech concerns.
The judge in the TikTok case sealed his reasoning for granting TikTok’s request for injunction. Only his brief, boilerplate order was made available to public court records. He left it up to TikTok and the White House to decide by Monday morning whether or not his full opinion can be unsealed and he ordered the parties to meet by Wednesday and file a status report.
TikTok’s interim head, Vanessa Pappas, wrote on Twitter Sunday night: “I am very happy that the court has granted an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok ban that would have prohibited new users to download the app. We will continue to seek to protect the rights of our users, partners, artists, employees, businesses, and creators.”
The Commerce Department wrote in a statement: “The [executive order] is fully consistent with the law and promotes legitimate national security interests. The government will comply with the injunction and has taken immediate steps to do so, but intends to vigorously defend the [executive order] and the Secretary’s implementation efforts from legal challenges.”
While it’s still expected that TikTok will meet Trump’s demands by finding a U.S. company to partner with for it’s operations here, an announced deal with Oracle, a corporate software company owned and operated by billionaire and major Trump donor Larry Ellison, and Walmart seems to have hit a bump. TikTok and Oracle, which would become a minority investor along with Walmart, last week put out contradicting statements to the press on which entity would actually own and operate what under the deal. Trump has said he’s in support of the deal, but it’s subject to approval by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment. TikTok and ByteDance have also said the Chinese government will need to approve it.
And it remains to be seen what will come of the lawsuit. The ban could be blocked outright, or it could be approved, giving TikTok little recourse. The judge handling the case was appointed by Trump last year.