US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler of California this morning stepped in to block today’s scheduled ban on downloads of WeChat, reports CNN.
Beeler made her temporary ruling in response to a lawsuit filed Friday by a group of WeChat users.
“The plaintiffs’ evidence reflects that WeChat is effectively the only means of communication for many in the community, not only because China bans other apps, but also because Chinese speakers with limited English proficiency have no options other than WeChat,” Beeler wrote.
She added that preventing WeChat downloads “burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government’s significant interest in national security, especially given the lack of substitute channels for communication,” according to Reuters.
WeChat has an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, the analytics firm Apptopia said in August. Most of those users are Chinese or those with business interests in China.
The WeChat Users Alliance called today’s ruling “an important and hard-fought victory” for “millions of WeChat users in the U.S.”
The Justice Department had unsuccessfully argued against the ruling saying it would “frustrate and displace the president’s determination of how best to address threats to national security”.
But the BBC reports that Beeler countered “the specific evidence about WeChat is modest”.
The Commerce Department disagrees saying the Chinese Communist Party “has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US”.
TenCent which owns WeChat says such concerns are misguided and that all messages on its app remain private.
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