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US govt appeals order blocking TikTok ban from taking effect

  • Published at 07:27 am November 13th, 2020
Tiktok USA
File photo: The social media application logo, TikTok is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on an American flag background, in Arlington, Virginia on August 3, 2020 AFP

President Donald Trump's administration contends that TikTok poses national security concerns as app collects personal data

The US Justice Department said it had appealed a Pennsylvania judge's October 30 order that blocked the government from imposing restrictions on Chinese-owned short video sharing app TikTok that were set to take effect on Thursday.

The Commerce Department's August order would have barred transactions with TikTok, which its owner ByteDance had warned would effectively prohibit TikTok's use in the United States.

The White House did not appear to be in a rush to implement an August 14 divestiture order that directed ByteDance to sell TikTok by Thursday.

There were no immediate efforts by the Trump administration to enforce that order, even though it was not clear whether the government would formally grant a request by ByteDance to extend the sale deadline.

The Commerce Department said November 1 it would comply with Judge Wendy Beetlestone's order blocking the ban, but said it 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 September 27, US District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington issued a preliminary injunction in a suit brought by ByteDance that stopped Commerce from ordering Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google app stores to remove TikTok for download by new users. That order had been set to take effect later that day.

The US Treasury Department said on Wednesday it wanted a resolution of national security concerns it has raised about TikTok before a Thursday divestiture deadline. A Treasury spokeswoman had no comment on Thursday.

ByteDance has been in talks for a deal with Walmart Inc and Oracle Corp to shift TikTok's US assets into a new entity called TikTok Global. It said on Tuesday it had requested a 30-day extension of the divestiture deadline to finalize terms. Trump said in September the deal had his "blessing."

ByteDance on Tuesday filed a petition with the US Court of Appeals in Washington challenging the Aug. 14 divestiture order, which gave the Justice Department power to enforce the demanded sale. A Justice Department spokeswoman on Thursday declined to comment.

ByteDance said a fourth proposal submitted on Friday sought to address US security concerns "by creating a new entity, wholly owned by Oracle, Walmart and existing US investors in ByteDance, that would be responsible for handling TikTok's US user data and content moderation."

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