WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- On Sunday morning, US Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco released a ruling that blocks the Trump’s administration order of removing the WeChat app downloads from Apple and Google.
- The US Commerce Department issued the banning of the Chinese-based app because it is seen as a threat to the country’s national security.
- The WeChat users alliance, the lawsuit plaintiff, lauded the ruling, saying it was “an important and hard-fought victory.”
On Sunday morning, a US judge held up the White House from ordering Apple and Google companies to remove the WeChat messaging app in downloads effective Sunday night.
In an order released by San Francisco Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler, WeChat users who sought legal action “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim, the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs’ favor.”
The 22-pager order also stated that the prohibitions “burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government’s significant interest in national security, especially given the lack of substitute channels for communication.”
The US Commerce Department on Friday instructed an order to ban the Chinese-owned app (Tencent Holdings) for grounds of threat to national security. The US Justice Department also asked Beeler to refrain from hindering the order.
Tencent and the Justice Department did not immediately make a comment.
Beeler’s initial ruling also stops the order that would be prohibiting other Wechat transactions in the country, which could ultimately result in making the app non-functional.
In its statement, the Justice Department said that blocking the order would “frustrate and displace the president’s determination of how best to address threats to national security.”
The department also pointed out that app users could turn to other platforms.
However, Beeler thought otherwise as she said: “certainly the government’s overarching national-security interest is significant. But on this record — while the government has established that China’s activities raise significant national security concerns — it has put in scant little evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all US users addresses those concerns.”
Beeler also noted that “there are obvious alternatives to a complete ban, such as barring WeChat from government devices.”
WeChat users alliance, the lawsuit plaintiff, lauded Beeler’s ruling, saying that it was “an important and hard-fought victory” for the sake of the “millions of WeChat users in the US.”
Attorney Michael Bien of the WeChat users said that “the United States has never shut down a major platform for communications, not even during war times. There are serious First Amendment problems with the WeChat ban, which targets the Chinese American community.”
Bien added the order “trampled on their First Amendment guaranteed freedoms to speak, to worship, to read and react to the press, and to organize and associate for numerous purposes.”
The US has an average of 19 million daily active users in WeChat, analytics firm Apptopia said early last month. The app is being used by Chinese students, Americans residing in China, and also some Americans who have relational or business ties in China.