WeChat user alliance sues Trump administration over threatened ban

They'll join TikTok in fighting the President's executive order.

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WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 07: In this photo illustration, the WeChat app is displayed in the App Store on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020 in Washington, DC. On Thursday evening, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that bans any transactions between the parent company of TikTok, ByteDance, and U.S. citizens due to national security reasons. The president signed a separate executive order banning transactions with China-based tech company Tencent, which owns the app WeChat. Both orders are set to take effect in 45 days. (Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

TikTok isn’t the only one suing the Trump administration over an executive order that could ban an app in the US. The Financial Times reports that the WeChat Users Alliance has sued the administration over the potential WeChat ban. The user group claimed the order violates First Amendment free speech rights and is unfairly targeted at the Chinese community in the US, which often uses WeChat to talk to friends and family in China.

The Alliance also said the order violated Fifth Amendment rights to due process by making it unclear which “interactions” were covered under the order. Are messages and downloads covered, for example? While the Commerce Department is supposed to be interpreting Trump’s order, the WeChat group believed it was too vague to start with.

Attorneys also argued that many messaging app users were well aware of the potential for surveillance, including from the US. It was up to them to decide whether or not to use an app, not the government.

The plaintiffs in the case hope to get a preliminary injunction that would block the order while the lawsuit is in progress.

The lawsuit isn’t guaranteed to work. The White House and others have insisted that Chinese-made social apps like WeChat and TikTok are national security threats over concerns the Chinese government might force them to hand over sensitive user data. That belief could play heavily into the government’s case.

There’s no publicly available evidence these data raids are happening, however, and the claimed constitutional violations would be significant if true. For that matter, a temporary injunction would be helpful by itself — it would buy time that would allow for a stronger defense, or even a different administration that might be less inclined toward an outright ban.

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