TikTok closer toward overturning Trump ban in legal tug-of-war
Published: Nov 02, 2020 08:33 PM

TikTok US Photo: VCG

Having been embroiled in a tug-of-war with the Trump administration in the past few months, Chinese video-sharing platform TikTok is near a final reprieve from the threat to be banned in the US following the latest US court ruling in its favor, yet uncertainty looms as the US presidential election draws near.

The US Commerce Department responded on Sunday after a US court ruling blocked the Trump administration from outlawing TikTok's US operations, by saying that it would "vigorously defend" the executive order, according to a Reuters report.

It would "comply with the injunction... but intends to vigorously defend the [executive order] and the Secretary's implementation efforts from legal challenges," the US Commerce Department said.

US District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Pennsylvania ruled on Friday that US President Donald Trump, who cited national security threats as a reason, had exceeded his authority in invoking his emergency economic powers to impose sanctions against TikTok.

"The government's own descriptions of the national security threat posed by the TikTok app are phrased in the hypothetical," Beetlestone said. 

The lawsuit was filed by three TikTok influencers in the US who make their living on the platform.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Monday that it has noted the court ruling. "We hope the US could comply with international trade rules and provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for all foreign firms operating in the US," Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, told a regular news briefing.

Friday's ruling — together with another US judge's ruling in favor of TikTok - suggests a potentially favorable outcome for TikTok in a hearing to be held the day after the US election, said Zhang Lei, senior joint partner at Beijing DHH Law Firm.

"Some judges in the US maintain neutral and objective views on the case," Zhang told the Global Times.

On September 27, US District Judge Carl Nichols temporarily blocked the Trump administration's ban on downloads of TikTok. The US federal government lodged an appeal last month, and that is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday. Nichols must decide whether to block the other aspects of the order set to take effect on November 12.

According to Trump's second executive order, TikTok is required to be divested fully from its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance by that deadline if no deal is made.

Shen Yi, director at the Research Center for Cyberspace Governance of Fudan University, said the two setbacks the US government has encountered indicated that its national security reasoning is baseless.

However, it's still hard to tell which side will win, and the court battle is likely to reach the US Supreme Court, a Washington D.C.-based lawyer told the Global Times earlier. "The US Supreme Court has high respect for the government when it comes to the national security issue. That is where the government has the upper hand."