WeChat, the Chinese messaging app that was set to get effectively switched off for American users on Sunday night, will still be available in the US for now, after a court ruling.
A federal judge in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction on Sunday, blocking the Trump administration's order to ban the WeChat app, which is owned by China internet giant Tencent.
The plaintiffs argued that the Commerce Department order -- forcing Apple and Google to remove WeChat as of Sunday night -- violated their First Amendment rights.
The WeChat users who filed the request for an emergency injunction "have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim," Magistrate Laurel Beeler said, and therefore "the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs' favour."
The Trump administration has cited national-security concerns, postulating that Chinese government agents could demand access to data from WeChat on US users. Beeler wrote that "while the general evidence about the threat to national security related to China (regarding technology and mobile technology) is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest."
Beeler added that the US government had other options at its disposal to achieve national security objectives, such as banning WeChat from use on government devices, which is a step that Australia has taken.
Meanwhile plans to ban TikTok from US app stores have been delayed after two big American firms said they would buy stakes in the social media platform's US operations.The TikTok-Oracle-Walmart deal still needs approval by the Chinese government.
The American Civil Liberties Union last week blasted the Trump app bans as abridging First Amendment rights of US users. "Millions of people in the United States watch or post videos to TikTok and rely on WeChat for connections to family, friends, and work relationships. They are all engaging in First Amendment-protected speech, association, and expression," the organisation said in a blog post.
Australian Associated Press