On Friday, it looked like the US was just about finalising the ban on downloads of China-based apps – TikTok and WeChat. The Trump administration warned that these apps posed security threats to American users. The Commerce Department issued an order that would have prohibited new downloads as of Sunday. And on Saturday WeChat in particular saw a sharp uptick in new installs in the US, according to analytics platform Sensor Tower, with an 800 percent week-over-week increase.
President Trump said on Saturday he had given a deal between TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart his “blessing,” prompting a one-week delay from the Commerce Department on TikTok’s ban. And a judge in California issued a preliminary injunction blocking the administration’s WeChat ban.
The TikTok deal is a far cry from the Trump administration’s original demand for a full sale of TikTok’s US operations. Oracle becomes a trusted tech partner, and will host all US user data, securing “associated computer systems.” Both Oracle and Walmart will take part in a TikTok Global pre-IPO financing round in which they can take up to a 20 percent cumulative stake in the new company, TikTok Global, according to TikTok.
For WeChat, the future in the US is even more uncertain. A federal court granted a preliminary injunction halting the Trump administration’s planned ban of WeChat, in response to a plaintiff lawsuit saying the ban would harm their First Amendment rights. Judge Laurel Beeler wrote in her order that an August lawsuit by a group of WeChat users showed “serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim.” Beeler wrote that 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.”