Judge blocked US attempt to ban WeChat

Judge blocked US attempt to ban WeChat
The Trump administration has claimed WeChat threatens national security. Source: REUTERS
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Daily US Times: A judge has blocked a US government attempt to ban the Chinese payments and messaging app, WeChat.

Laurel Beeler, a US Magistrate Judge said the ban raised serious questions related to the constitution’s first amendment, guaranteeing free speech.

The US Department of Commerce had announced a bar on Chinese-owned WeChat appearing in US app stores from Sunday, effectively shutting it down.

The Trump administration has claimed it threatens national security and argues it could pass user data to the Chinese government.

Both China and WeChat have strongly denied the claim. Tencent, the conglomerate that owns WeChat, had previously described the US ban as “unfortunate”.

The ruling comes just after popular micro-video sharing app TikTok, which was also named in the Department of Commerce order, reached a deal with US firms Oracle and Walmart to hopefully allow them to keep operating.

The Justice Department asked for the order not to be blocked after a group of WeChat users filed a lawsuit challenging it.

The Justice Department said it would “frustrate and displace the president’s determination of how best to address threats to national security”.

However Judge Beeler, sitting in San Francisco, noted that “while the general evidence about the threat to national security related to China (regarding technology and mobile technology) is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest”.

Wilbur Ross, the US Department of Commerce Secretary, said in a statement that the decision to block the app was taken “to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data”.

WeChat collected “vast swathes of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories”, the department said.

A statement from the commerce department published on Friday said the governing Chinese Communist Party “has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US”.

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