ByteDance-owned TikTok must move to resolve other US government restrictions, according to legal experts, after a federal court stopped the Trump administration from imposing a ban on downloading and updating the popular short video-sharing service.
In his unsealed opinion on Monday, US District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington granted a preliminary injunction in favour of plaintiffs, led by TikTok, because the ban issued against the Chinese-owned app likely overstepped US President Donald Trump’s legal authority by blocking an information channel.
Following that legal relief, experts said TikTok must now deal with other prohibited transactions that the US Department of Commerce published on September 18. The agency will seek to enforce them around midnight on November 12, under the authority of two executive orders issued by Trump on August 6 and 14.
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The latest court ruling covered the first US government prohibition, which would have banned TikTok from distributing and maintaining its app in the US around midnight on Sunday, because it was an “urgent and timely” matter to resolve, according to Wang Nan, a Shanghai-based lawyer who represents clients in cross-border disputes at global law firm Kobre & Kim.
Citing his authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, Trump issued the executive order on the grounds that TikTok’s foreign ownership and data collection pose a risk to Americans’ personal and proprietary information, which could be turned over to Beijing.
A TikTok spokeswoman on Monday said the company was “pleased that the court agreed with our legal arguments and issued an injunction”. The Commerce Department, meanwhile, said that it will “vigorously defend” the Trump administration’s executive order.
The four other US government restrictions against TikTok include: internet hosting services; content delivery network services; directly contracted or arranged internet transit or peering services; and “any utlilisation” of TikTok’s mobile app code, functions or services.
These issues “should appropriately be the subject of separate proceedings, which can be briefed and decided prior to those restrictions’ effective date of November 12”, Judge Nichols said in his ruling.
That leaves TikTok with some more time to address them in the same US court.
“For the other prohibitions, [Nichols] still has over a month to decide,” said professor David Law, the Sir Y K Pao chair in public law at the University of Hong Kong.
The four other prohibitions set out by the Commerce Department against TikTok have added more pressure on ByteDance, which is still trying to firm up a proposed deal with US tech company Oracle Corp that would address the concerns of both Washington and Beijing. The US prohibitions may be lifted is TikTok addresses the Washington’s security concerns before November 12.
TikTok has more than 100 million users in the US, according to the company’s court filing.
In his decision, Nichols also ordered all the parties in the TikTok case to confer by Wednesday on the next steps in their dispute.
This meeting would be for the parties to “come to an agreement about a few relevant things, including scheduling for the rest of the case and the dates of hearings,” said Nathaniel Rushforth, a lawyer and cybersecurity specialist at Shanghai-based DaWo Law Firm.
While the Trump administration could potentially argue about bias in this case, that is not expected to happen.
Judge Nichols, who was a Trump appointee, also belongs to the Federalist Society, which is an organisation of conservative judges and lawyers, according to HKU’s Law. “So it should be hard for Trump to argue that this judge is somehow biased against him,” Law said.
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