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US judge stands firm in decision to block ban on WeChat

She was unimpressed with the government's additional evidence.
Mariella Moon, @mariella_moon
October 24, 2020
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Karl Tapales via Getty Images

The judge who blocked the Commerce Department’s order to remove WeChat from US app stores was unmoved by the new evidence the government presented. Last month, US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler issued a preliminary injunction blocking the order that would’ve been enforced on September 20th, explaining that the government “put in scant little evidence” that WeChat’s ban would address its national security concerns. The Justice Department put in a request to reverse the decision, but the judge has now rejected it — she said the additional evidence the government presented failed to change her mind.

In addition to removing the app from stores, the order would also prohibit transactions with WeChat in the US. Apple, Disney and other companies voiced their concerns about the ban, as it would’ve affected their businesses. It might have prevented Disney from accepting WeChat payments for passes, concessions and other purchases in Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland, for instance. And Apple believes it would’ve caused its iPhone shipments to dip by as much as 30 percent due to WeChat’s widespread usage in China.

Beeler wrote in her decision:

“The record does not support the conclusion that the government has ‘narrowly tailored’ the prohibited transactions to protect its national-security interests. [The evidence] supports the conclusion that the restrictions ‘burden substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s legitimate interests.’”

Despite Beeler’s refusal to budge, the Justice Department isn’t giving up: it has taken its fight to the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals, asking it to reverse the judge’s decision.

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