TikTok isn’t alone in avoiding a US ban, at least for now. Reuters reports that Judge Laurel Beeler has issued a preliminary injunction blocking a Commerce Department order that would remove WeChat from US app stores by the end of September 20th. Users who sued the Trump administration over the ban have raised “serious questions” about First Amendment free speech issues, Judge Beeler said, and that tipped the “balance of hardships” in their favor.
The injunction similarly thwarted an order that would have forbidden other US transactions with WeChat.
Beeler added that the government’s general national security concerns about China were “considerable,” but that evidence of specific issues with WeChat was “modest.” Like with TikTok, politicians have been worried that China might push Tencent-owned WeChat to spy on Americans.
The move stymies the Trump administration’s attempt to crack down on China-owned internet services, at least until the lawsuit comes to its conclusion.
It’s also a relief to both users and some US companies. WeChat is a mainstay app in China, and a ban would have made it harder for Chinese Americans to message overseas relatives. Also, firms like Apple and Disney have warned that they stand to lose if they can’t interact with WeChat. Apple’s iPhone sales in China depend heavily on access to WeChat, for example. If it’s not allowed to offer the app, its future in the country is in doubt. The injunction puts those fears on hold, however temporarily.