Citing the First Amendment, a federal judge blocked an order that would have forced app stores to stop offering the Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat.
The ruling, issued Saturday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco, prohibits the Commerce Department from implementing an executive order issued by President Trump, who said the app -- owned by Chinese company Tencent Holdings -- poses a security risk.
The Commerce Department ordered its removal from app stores by Sunday.
Beeler said in a 22-page ruling issued Saturday that WeChat “is irreplaceable for its users in the U.S., particularly in the Chinese-speaking and Chinese-American community.”
The ruling comes in a lawsuit brought by a group of WeChat users, who argued that WeChat is essential to Chinese speakers in the U.S.
Beeler said WeChat's users had presented evidence that the app “is effectively the only means of communication for many in the community,” given that China bans other apps, and that Chinese speakers who don't speak English have no other options.
Beeler added that the government had not shown that banning the app was necessary to address the potential security concerns.
“Certainly the government’s overarching national-security interest is significant,” Beeler wrote. “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.”
She added there were “obvious alternatives” to a complete ban, such as prohibiting the app on government devices.