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Judge Not Inclined To Allow WeChat Ban During Appeal

U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said she likely won’t allow restrictions on WeChat while the U.S. government appeals her earlier decision to block them, Bloomberg reported.

Beeler said Thursday (Oct. 15) she probably isn’t going to grant the government a stay pending appeal on the case, as the evidence provided that WeChat poses national security concerns hasn’t convinced her, according to Bloomberg.

Instead, she said the banning of WeChat would infringe on the free speech of millions of Chinese-speaking Americans who use the app to communicate with others, Bloomberg reported. She has not given a final ruling yet.

The President Donald Trump administration has said WeChat, along with TikTok, are threats to national security as they could be used by the Chinese government to access users’ private information.

With WeChat specifically, the administration has said it is concerned about parent company Tencent Holdings, which it has said is connected closely with China’s communist government. Justice Department lawyer Serena Orloff said the amount of data the Chinese government could potentially access is “massive,” Bloomberg reported, including doctors’ appointments and medical data. She said it “generates a digital facsimile of a person’s life.”

The administration wants to remove the apps from app stores, which would both prevent new sign-ups and also block current users from accessing new updates.

On Sept. 20, Beeler blocked the bans that the U.S. Commerce Department, the same day they were supposed to go into effect.

WeChat is a “super app” which boasts messaging, mobile payments and social media functions. It has 1 billion users worldwide and 19 million regular U.S. users, Bloomberg reported.

The proposed ban of WeChat could hurt eCommerce by affecting those who use the apps to conduct financial transactions, PYMNTS reported, including a large swathe of Chinese nationals living or working in the U.S.

In response to the proposed bans, a Chinese official at a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting this month said the move would violate the rules of the WTO by restricting trade and going against the organization’s basic principles.

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