WeChat transactions ban blocked by US judge
The US Department of Commerce has been blocked from banning WeChat and its payment transfer services by a San Francisco magistrate.
The ban is a response to an executive order from President Donald Trump. The Department of Commerce announced last week it would prohibit transactions on mobile apps WeChat and TikTok.
The order was to come into force on 20 September. A group of WeChat users filed a lawsuit against the action hoping to delay or block the motion.
US magistrate judge Laurel Beeler ruled in favour of the group. In her order she describes the prohibitions as a substantial burden on First Amendment rights.
Beeler’s preliminary injunction blocks the Commerce order banning transactions over the WeChat app.
According to analytics provider App Annie, WeChat has around 3.3 million users in the US. The app is popular among Chinese students and Americans living in China.
The Commerce order focused on national security concerns over the collection and dissemination of data by both WeChat and TikTok.
“Each collects vast swaths of data from users,” the department wrote. This included “network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories.”
“Each is an active participant in China’s civil-military fusion and is subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP.”
In her notes, Beeler states that while the US government has established China’s activities raise concerns, it submitted “scant little evidence” that a ban would address those concerns.
The US Justice Department says blocking the order would “frustrate and displace” how best to address threats to national security.
Representing the WeChat users, lawyer Michael Bien says the ban has “serious First Amendment problems” which “target the Chinese American community.”
The TikTok ban has also suffered a delay. This postponement is due to a potential deal between TikTok parent ByteDance and US technology firm Oracle.