Second US judge blocks Trump’s TikTok ban

NEW YORK (AFP) – A second United States (US) federal judge has suspended a Trump administration executive order threatening to ban TikTok in the US.

The preliminary injunction granted late Monday by judge Carl Nichols in a district court in Washington DC comes more than a month after a similar decision in Pennsylvania.

Nichols said TikTok’s lawyers had demonstrated that the Commerce Department likely overstepped its authority by seeking to ban the popular social media app and “acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by failing to consider obvious alternatives.”

The White House claims TikTok is a national security risk because of potential links to the Beijing government through its Chinese owner ByteDance.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on August 6 giving Americans 45 days to stop doing business with ByteDance – effectively setting a deadline for a sale of the app to a US company.

Trump’s order said the action was necessary to “protect our national security” and claimed the personal data of TikTok users could be used by Beijing.

The TikTok building in Culver City, California. PHOTO: AFP

TikTok has repeatedly defended itself against allegations of data transfers to the Chinese government, saying it stores user information on servers in the US and Singapore.

The latest order follows an October 30 ruling by a federal court in Pennsylvania which issued a temporary injunction blocking Trump’s ban.

After a complaint from three TikTok content creators, Judge Wendy Beetlestone ordered the US administration not to prevent other companies from providing essential services to the platform, such as online hosting.

Beetlestone had considered that the August 6 presidential decree should be suspended.

At the end of September, judge Nichols had also issued a temporary injunction stopping the US from banning downloads of the app, which he said would cause “irreparable harm” to TikTok, but he refused to rule on its total ban in the US.

TikTok has a further fight on its hands over an August 14 executive order from Trump to force ByteDance to sell its US operations to an American buyer.

The US Treasury has repeatedly extended the deadline for the Chinese group to divest, and indicated on Friday it would continue negotiations to resolve the dispute.

TikTok has 100 million users in the United States and 700 million worldwide.