With mere hours to go, a Washington judge on Sunday saved TikTok from being yanked out of U.S. app stores…for now.
A preliminary injunction issued by District Judge Carl Nichols blocked a U.S. Department of Commerce order prohibiting downloads of the app. Initially, the Commerce Department targeted Sept. 20 at 11:59 p.m., but moved the deadline one week, in light of a looming deal from Oracle and Walmart.
During a telephone hearing held Sunday morning, TikTok attorney John Hall argued that a ban would devastate the business.
“This is one of the fastest-growing apps in the world, and those new users are the lifeblood of this business, which is true of any social media platform,” Hall explained. “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.”
The administration’s move is also unconstitutional, he said, “shutting down speech.” Such arguments have been core to TikTok’s position for weeks.
Issues of constitutionality can be thorny, which may be why TikTok requested a temporary injunction to address the pressing prohibition, at least until a more complete decision is reached.
Sunday’s late-breaking injunction stymies the Trump administration’s pressure campaign, but doesn’t end it.
Citing national security concerns, an executive order signed by President Trump in August set a Nov. 12 deadline for TikTok’s owner, China-based ByteDance, to divest from the app. The Washington court isn’t addressing that issue “at this time,” and that means the later deadline still looms.
The Commerce Department likely won’t sit back until then. But either way, the clock is ticking for the Oracle-Walmart proposal to gain approval and proceed. But first, the principal players need to settle some big questions, primarily who would actually control the business. And on this point, confusion still reigns.