U.S. government appeals order blocking TikTok ban from taking effect

FILE PHOTO: Illustration picture of U.S. flag with TikTok
FILE PHOTO: A reflection of the U.S. flag is seen on the sign of the TikTok app in this illustration picture taken September 19, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo

November 12, 2020

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department said it had appealed a Pennsylvania judge’s Oct. 30 order that blocked the government from imposing restrictions on Chinese-owned TikTok that were set to take effect on Thursday.

The Commerce Department’s August restrictions order was to take effect late in the day, barring transactions with ByteDance’s short video sharing app TikTok that its owner had warned would have effectively barred its use in the United States.

The Commerce Department said Nov. 1 it would comply with Judge Wendy Beetlestone’s order, but would “vigorously defend” its actions.

TikTok did not immediately comment on the government’s appeal to the U.S. Third Circuit.

Beetlestone enjoined the agency from barring data hosting within the United States for TikTok, content delivery services and other technical transactions.

President Donald Trump’s administration contends that TikTok poses national security concerns as personal data collected on 100 million Americans who use the app could be obtained by China’s government. TikTok denies the allegations.

Beetlestone wrote the “government’s own descriptions of the national security threat posed by the TikTok app are phrased in the hypothetical.”

On Sept. 27, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington issued a preliminary injunction in a suit brought by ByteDance that stopped Commerce from ordering Apple Inc <AAPL.O> and Alphabet Inc’s Google <GOOGL.O> app stores to remove TikTok for download by new users. That order had been set to take effect later that day.

The U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday it wanted a resolution of national security concerns it has raised about TikTok before a Thursday divestiture deadline.

ByteDance has been in talks for a deal with Walmart Inc <WMT.N> and Oracle Corp <ORCL.N> to shift TikTok’s U.S. assets into a new entity called TikTok Global. It said on Tuesday it was requesting a 30-day extension of the divestiture deadline to finalize terms. Trump said in September the deal had his “blessing.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese)