TikTok has received a temporary reprieve from being removed from U.S. app stores.
A Trump Administration executive order had set a September 27 deadline requiring that, if TikTok’s U.S operations were not sold by that date, its app would be banned from sale in app stores. The order did not attempt to stop the continued use of TikTok by existing U.S. users.
On September 26, after TikTok filed for an injunction to block the ban on downloads, Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Trump Administration to either delay the ban or file a written response by 2:30 p.m. September 27.
On the deadline day, Judge Nichols announced that he was granting part of TikTok’s injunction request, temporarily stopping the ban on app-store downloads.
The court order was sealed, so his reasons for granting the partial injunction are not public as yet.
In seeking a temporary injunction, TikTok argued that the executive order is “capricious,” violates the First Amendment, and would do the company irreparable harm. It also pointed out that a judge in San Francisco recently blocked the administration from enforcing a similar ban on the messaging app WeChat.
Nichols asked the parties to review his injunction decision and indicate by 11 am on Monday, September 28 whether the order can be unsealed.
“We’re pleased that the court agreed with our legal arguments and issued an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok app ban,” TikTok said in a statement.
The Commerce Department also released this statement, indicating that it will continue to “vigorously” defend the executive order:
“On September 27, 2020, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted a nationwide preliminary injunction against the implementation of Executive Order (E.O.) 13942, limited to the Secretary of Commerce’s Identification of Prohibited Transactions with TikTok/ByteDance involving ‘any provision of services… to distribute or maintain the TikTok mobile application, constituent code, or application updates through an online mobile application store.’ The E.O. is fully consistent with the law and promotes legitimate national security interests. The Government will comply with the injunction and has taken immediate steps to do so, but intends to vigorously defend the E.O. and the Secretary’s implementation efforts from legal challenges.”
After Oracle and Walmart agreed to acquire TikTok’s global operations, Trump expressed tentative approval of such a deal and extended his deadline by a week, to September 27.
However, soon after the proposed deal was announced, TikTok owner ByteDance asserted that it would keep control of 80% of the newly formed TikTok entity, at least until an IPO could be implemented at an unknown date. Oracle and Walmart counter-asserted that ByteDance would have no ownership or control.
Trump has since said on Fox News that he will not approve the deal unless the U.S. partners have total control.
In short, for the moment, the outcome is still in limbo.