TikTok got some good news to close out the week as a federal judge blocked the government from moving ahead with restrictions that would ban the app from functioning. The U.S. Commerce Department was seeking to cut off TikTok's use of web hosting and content delivery networks in the U.S. starting November 12, which would render the app useless.
Waste of time — The Trump administration has been fighting to ban TikTok or force a sell-off from its Chinese parent company ByteDance amid broader trade tensions with that country. It has argued that the app poses a national security risk because ByteDance could be compelled to hand over data on American users to the Chinese Communist Party. Critics of the ban say potential surveillance of Americans can be thwarted in more effective ways, such as passing broad consumer privacy legislation that covers apps both foreign and domestic.
Ironically, the European Union is threatening to ban Facebook over America's lack of strong privacy protections.
Free speech — Various civil rights organizations have defended TikTok, saying that cutting off the app would violate the right to free speech because many Americans use the video app to express their beliefs. TikTok users famously trolled President Trump by encouraging one another to RSVP to a campaign event they never planned on attending, therefore making him believe the turnout would be higher than it was.
The argument in favor of allowing TikTok to remain is essentially that America shouldn't stoop to the same lows as China of banning foreign apps without justification because it could set a precedent of countries favoring local players and splintering off the internet into silos. That would hurt American companies and political priorities.
Banning TikTok would also take a way an app that millions of Americans enjoy for free or even earn money from — influencers on the app filed the lawsuit that led to today's injunction.
“We are pleased that the judge has halted this ban, which exceeds the President’s authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, namely portions of the Act that reflect our nation’s deep commitment to free speech,” Ambika Kumar Doran, lead attorney for the influencers who brought the lawsuit, told The Verge.
TikTok is still in negotiations to sell itself to a consortium including Oracle and Walmart in a deal that some believe is self-dealing on the part of the Trump administration. Depending on the outcome of the election, it seems possible that TikTok may be able to just slow walk litigation until an administration more friendly towards China takes over.