Monday 28 September 2020 10:23 am

US judge temporarily blocks Trump’s Tiktok app store ban

A US judge has temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s ban on Tiktok downloads that was due to come into effect at midnight last night. 

A Washington district judge granted Tiktok’s last-minute request for a preliminary injunction on the ban late last night following a 90-minute hearing earlier in the day.

Read more: Tiktok files for injunction to overturn US app store ban

App Store ban

The Chinese-owned video platform faced removal from Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play marketplace from 11.59pm on Sunday, following a bitter spat with the Trump administration over the firm’s data harvesting methods. 

Trump has argued that data collected on 100m Americans who use the app every day could be handed over to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Tiktok has repeatedly denied the claims.

Though Titkok’s US users would still have been able to use the app under the proposed ban, a block on software updates would have slowly deteriorated the platform’s presence on the US app market.

Tiktok’s lawyer John E. Hall argued earlier on Sunday that the ban was “unprecedented” and “irrational”.

“This is just punitive. This is just a blunt way to whack the company… There is simply no urgency here,” he told the court in Washington.

Judge Carl Nichols declined “at this time” to block additional commerce department restrictions due to take effect on 12 November.

The US commerce department said it “will comply with the injunction and has taken immediate steps to do so”.

Deal or no deal?

The injunction comes as Tiktok scrambles to secure a deal that would secure its continued operations in the US.

Chinese parent company Bytedance is close to hammering out a preliminary deal with US retail giants Walmart and Oracle to each take a 20 per cent stake in Tiktok Global — a new entity that would oversee the firm’s US operations.

However, Trump last week U-turned on giving the deal his “blessing”, adding that he would refuse to sign off any deal that would grant Bytedance a majority stake in the video platform.

Bytedance subsequently said the company would go public in a year’s time, though the key terms of the deal remain in dispute. 

Fresh restrictions on the video platform’s technical and business arrangements are due to be imposed if a deal is not secured by 12 November.

Read more: Tiktok proposes social media coalition as MPs grill app over online harms

Tiktok has said the new restrictions would effectively render the app impossible to operate in the US.

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst of the Asia Pacific region at Oanda, said last night’s injunction should be read as “more a stay of execution than a complete victory”, with continuing negotiations set to lay the battleground in the coming weeks.

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