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Judge blocks Trump administration WeChat ban

Judge blocks Trump administration WeChat ban
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A U.S. judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s order to ban WeChat downloads in the U.S., which was set to start Sunday evening.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco ruled early Sunday that the group of U.S. WeChat users challenging the order raised “serious questions” about how the action would affect their First Amendment rights, Reuters reported

"The plaintiffs' evidence reflects that WeChat is effectively the only means of communication for many in the community, not only because China bans other apps, but also because Chinese speakers with limited English proficiency have no options other than WeChat," Beeler wrote, according to CNN Business.

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She wrote that the order burdens “substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government’s significant interest in national security, especially given the lack of substitute channels for communication.”

Beeler added that “obvious alternatives” to a ban on downloads of Chinese app across the U.S. exist, including prohibiting the app on government-issued phones. 

“Certainly, the government’s overarching national-security interest is significant,” she said. “But on this record — while the government has established that China’s activities raise significant national security concerns — it has put in scant little evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all U.S. users addresses those concerns.”

The Commerce Department had released an order to stop WeChat from being downloaded from U.S. app stores starting Sunday evening. But Beeler’s ruling halted the administration’s order, including restrictions on internet infrastructure firms for carrying or hosting WeChat's internet traffic.

The Department of Commerce did not immediately return a request for comment. 

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The Justice Department reportedly had urged Beeler not to block the order saying the move would “frustrate and displace the president’s determination of how best to address threats to national security,” according to Reuters. 

The Trump administration also issued an order to stop U.S. app stores from offering TikTok beginning on late Sunday. But officials delayed the restrictions by one week after President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE approved a deal with TikTok, Oracle and Walmart.

WeChat has an average of 19 million daily users in the country, analytics firm Apptopia said in early August, according to Reuters. Downloads for the Chinese app jumped hours after the ban was announced, with WeChat reaching within the top 100 apps by noon Friday.