(Reuters) – A US judge has temporarily blocked an order from the Trump administration designed to prevent Apple and Google from offering the Chinese short video sharing app TikTok for download on Sunday at 11:59 p.m.
The US District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington issued the injunction in a short order late on Sunday. He declined “at this point” to block restrictions due to go into effect on November 12th on technical and business agreements that are critical to the proper functioning of the app.
Nichols’ detailed written statement is expected to be released on Monday.
The Commerce Department said in a statement it will “comply with the injunction and have taken immediate steps to do so.”
The statement defending TikTok regulation and Trump’s Executive Order urging owner ByteDance to divest its TikTok-US operations did not state whether the government would appeal.
The injunction comes at a time when negotiations are underway to draft a preliminary contract for Walmart and Oracle to acquire a stake in a new company, TikTok Global, to oversee US operations. Trump has said he gave the deal his “blessing”.
However, the main contractual terms – including majority ownership – are controversial. ByteDance also said that every deal must be approved by China, and Beijing has revised its list of technologies that are subject to export bans so that it has a say in any TikTok deal.
TikTok said it was satisfied with the restraining order, adding it would “pursue its ongoing dialogue with the government to convert our proposal, which the president tentatively agreed to last week, into an agreement”.
John E. Hall, a TikTok attorney, argued earlier Sunday that the ban was “unprecedented” and “irrational”.
“How does it make sense to impose this App Store ban tonight when negotiations are ongoing that may make it unnecessary?” Hall asked during a 90-minute hearing. “That is only punishable. This is just one clear way to beat the company. … There is simply no urgency here. “
Chinese state media representatives welcomed the verdict.
“I think it is in line with morality, justice and common sense,” Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times newspaper, said on Twitter on Monday.
Chinese state media have said they see no reason for China to approve the deal and describe it as “bullying and blackmail”.
Trump’s government claims TikTok raises national security concerns as the Chinese government could obtain personal information from 100 million Americans who use the app. Each deal also has to be reviewed by the US Government’s Foreign Investment Committee (CFIUS).
The Justice Department said an injunction would “disrupt a formal national security ruling by the president; Change of landscape with regard to ongoing CFIUS negotiations; and continue to have confidential and valuable user information regarding all new users forwarded to ByteDance. “
Another U.S. judge in Pennsylvania on Saturday turned down an offer from three TikTok content creators to block the ban, while a judge in California blocked the enforcement of a similar order that Tencent Holdings’ WeChat made of U.S. app Stores would ban.
(Additional coverage from Yingzhi Yang in Beijing and Pei Li in Hong Kong)