February 23, 2024

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WeChat may be hit with US ban after Justice Department request


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The Justice Department is asking a federal judge in San Francisco to allow the government to immediately bar downloads of WeChat in the US, saying the Chinese-owned messaging is a threat to national security. The request from the DOJ comes after US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler on Sunday temporarily blocked a Trump administration order requiring Apple and Google to remove WeChat from their app stores.

In a filing on Thursday, the Justice Department asked Beeler to put a stay on her preliminary injunction. If approved, it would essentially allow the US to ban WeChat while the case makes it way through court. The injunction issued on Sunday blocked a Commerce Department order that would have barred downloads of WeChat and put in place other restrictions, potentially making the app unusable in the US.

Beeler’s earlier ruling came as part of a lawsuit filed in August by a group of WeChat users who aren’t affiliated with the company behind the app and argued that President Donald Trump’s ban is unconstitutional. WeChat, which is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent, combines messaging, social media and mobile payment functions. 

Attorneys for the US WeChat Users Alliance didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Trump issued sweeping bans on Aug. 6 against WeChat and fellow Chinese tech app TikTok, citing concerns that data that the apps collect “vast swaths of information” from their US users. There is also concern that Chinese companies may be unable to reject requests from China’s ruling Communist Party to access that data.

The Justice Department asked for a ruling from Beeler no later than Oct. 1 on its request.

Tencent didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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