A federal judge in Washington DC has granted TikTok’s motion for a preliminary injunction, thereby preventing President Trump’s TikTok ban from taking effect this evening, at midnight, as originally expected.
Judge Carl J. Nichols made the ruling on the evening of Sunday, September 27, just hours before the popular TikTok app was set to be pulled from app stores operated by Apple and Google.
It means that for the time being at least, anyone who hasn’t yet downloaded the app will be able to do so. It also means that TikTok will be able to continue to push updates to the app via the app stores.
The court will now assess whether TikTok poses a risk to national security, which is the claim Trump made in an executive order that he signed in August threatening to ban the software unless an American company acquired TikTok’s U.S. operations from ByteDance, its Chinese owner.
While the U.S. government is yet to offer comment on the ruling, TikTok said on Twitter it was “pleased” with the court’s decision, adding that it will “continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees.” It said it also intends to continue talking to government officials in a bid to reach a satisfactory conclusion regarding the matter.
Only the court’s ruling was made public, with the reasoning provided privately to the government and TikTok. The ruling will, however, be made widely available once both parties have submitted requests for any redactions.
The original date of the app’s ban was set for September 20, but a tentative deal between TikTok and U.S. software giant Oracle announced on September 19 prompted Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to push the ban to September 27.
With the clock ticking and no further delay or removal of the proposed ban announced by the U.S. government, TikTok lawyers moved on Sunday to urge the judge to block the ban until the matter of TikTok’s future can be properly resolved.
TikTok lawyers argued that the proposed ban was “arbitrary and capricious” and could have an adverse on the security of data as it would prevent any required fixes from reaching the app via updates, adding, “How does it make sense to impose this app store ban tonight when there are negotiations underway that might make it unnecessary?”
TikTok also claimed that the proposed ban would “prohibit core constitutionally protected speech: videos composed by millions of Americans containing a vast array of individual expression, ranging from art to political speech.”
But lawyers for the government said the ban was valid because TikTok’s connections to the Chinese government via its parent company ByteDance made it a national security issue.
President Trump said in the order he signed in August that measures were needed “to deal with the national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and services supply chain,” adding that if TikTok data was obtained by the Chinese government, it could potentially allow it to “track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.” The order also also said that TikTok “reportedly censors content” that the Chinese government deems politically sensitive, and said the app “may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party.”