US Judge Blocks Commerce Department TikTok Order

US Judge Blocks Commerce Department TikTok Order
The logo of Chinese video app TikTok is seen on the side of the company's new office space at the C3 campus in Culver City on Aug. 11, 2020. (Chris Delmas//AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON—A U.S. judge in Pennsylvania on Oct. 30 blocked a U.S. Commerce Department order set to take effect on Nov. 12 that would have effectively barred Chinese-owned short video-sharing app TikTok from operating in the United States.

U.S. District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone enjoined the Commerce Department from barring data hosting within the United States for TikTok, content delivery services, and other technical transactions.

In her ruling, Beetlestone said the order would “have the effect of shutting down, within the United States, a platform for expressive activity used by approximately 700 million individuals globally. Over 100 million of these TikTok users are within the United States, and at least 50 million of these U.S. users use the app on a daily basis.”

The Commerce Department, which didn’t immediately comment on Oct. 30, has acknowledged the restrictions would “significantly reduce the functionality and usability of the app in the United States” and “may ultimately make the application less effective.”

On Sept. 27, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington issued a preliminary injunction in a suit brought by TikTok owner ByteDance that stopped the U.S. Commerce Department from ordering Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google app stores to remove TikTok for download by new users. That order had been set to take effect later that day.

Nichols is set to hold a Nov. 4 hearing on the other aspects of the Commerce Department order that Beetlestone blocked.

The order by Beetlestone, in a suit brought by three TikTok content creators, also blocks the app store download ban.

TikTok said in a statement it was “deeply moved by the outpouring of support” from its users “who have worked to protect their rights to expression.”

Talks have been ongoing to finalize a preliminary deal for Walmart Inc. and Oracle Corp. to take stakes in a new company, TikTok Global, that would oversee U.S. operations. U.S. President Donald Trump said in September the deal had his “blessing.”

The Trump administration contends TikTok poses national security concerns as personal data collected on 100 million Americans who use the app could be obtained by China’s government. TikTok denies the allegations.

By David Shepardson