Monday, 21 September 2020 04:50

US court blocks decision on WeChat as Oracle TikTok deal approved Featured

US court blocks decision on WeChat as Oracle TikTok deal approved Image by 愚木混株 Cdd20 from Pixabay

A judge in the US has blocked the government from implementing a decision to make it mandatory for Apple and Google to remove the WeChat application from their respective app stores.

The order was made on Sunday in response to a suit filed by the WeChat Users Alliance.

Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said the users, "have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim, the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs’ favour", Reuters reported.

On Friday, the US Department of Commerce announced that fresh downloads of WeChat and TikTok, both apps made by Chinese companies, would be banned from midnight on Friday. US President Donald Trump issued executive orders banning the apps on 6 August.

The department claimed that use of the apps would be a threat to US national security.

But the ban on TikTok was postponed after Trump gave his approval to a deal by Oracle to take a share in TikTok's American operations. Under the plan, Oracle will get a 12.5% stake in TikTok's global business and provide cloud services while retailer Walmart is also to take a stake.

Reuters said WeChat had an average of 19 million daily users in the US.

There have been reports that removing WeChat from the Apple app store would have a big impact on iPhone sales, as Chinese users make up about a third of those who use this device.

Veteran American tech journalist Robert X. Cringely has described WeChat this way: "Imagine Facebook, LinkedIn, PayPal, Venmo, Skype, Uber, Gmail and eBay all in a single application. That’s WeChat. It’s even a third-party application platform, so while US banks operate on the Internet, Chinese banks operate on WeChat."

Justice Beeler said there were other options for the government, such as banning WeChat from devices used by the government.

"The regulation – which eliminates a channel of communication without any apparent substitutes – burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s significant interest," she said in a 22-page order.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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