A California judge rejected a Justice Department request to overturn an earlier ruling allowing WeChat to remain active in U.S. app stores. US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said the new evidence presented by the government did not change her opinion on the messaging app, owned by Chinese company Tencent app. WeChat will remain active in US app stores for the time being.
“The record does not support the conclusion that the government ‘tightly tailored’ the prohibited transactions to protect its national security interests,” Beeler wrote in his ruling. The evidence “supports the conclusion that the restrictions impose far more rhetoric than necessary to advance the legitimate interests of the government.” President Trump issued an executive order in August to ban WeChat, citing the Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act.
The administration has also sought to ban Beijing-based ByteDance-owned video-sharing app TikTok on similar grounds, and President Trump has demanded the sale of the company. But rather than a sale, an agreement in principle made Oracle TikTok the trusted technology partner in the United States and created a new entity called TikTok Global. The agreement is not yet finalized. On September 27, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols granted a preliminary injunction against the ban on new downloads of TikTok in the United States hours before it went into effect.
Tencent may collect a “digital facsimile of a person’s life” from WeChat, Justice Department attorney Serena Orloff said in a hearing earlier this month, bolstering the administration’s stance according to which Tencent is linked to the Chinese Communist Party.
Beeler’s earlier order blocked the Commerce Department’s ban on US transactions on WeChat. And while the government claimed to have identified “significant” threats to national security, Beeler did not appear convinced. She said in her Sept. 20 order that a group of WeChat users calling themselves the WeChat Alliance had demonstrated that there were “serious questions” about whether the ban would potentially violate their rights to the first. amendment.
The group, which is not officially connected to WeChat, said there is no alternative app capable of doing everything WeChat does, and argued that this is the primary medium for Chinese speakers. in the United States to connect with their family in China and receive information locally. WeChat has some 19 million US users and 1 billion users worldwide.
The Justice Department appealed Beeler’s decision to the Ninth Circuit, but a decision is not expected until December.