TikTok Appellate Judges Sign Skepticism of Trump’s Ban on App

(Bloomberg) – A jury from the U.S. appeals court in Washington has signaled skepticism about the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to ban new downloads of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok.

At a hearing on Monday, two of the three judges suggested that they were with the government’s legal reasons for banning TikTok, the ByteDance Ltd. heard, disagreed. The administration pleads for the reinstatement of an order with which TikTok is removed from the app stores operated by Apple Inc. and Google of Alphabet Inc., which a lower court blocked in September as an “indirect settlement” of communications prohibited by federal law.

The government relies on “a fairly narrow definition of indirect regulation,” said US Judge Patricia Millett at the hearing on Monday.

The US Circuit Judge Judith Rogers was duller.

“Congress wrote that language,” said Rogers, and the government’s justification for the ban “seems to contradict it.”

The third judge on the panel, U.S. Circuit Judge Robert L. Wilkins, did not speak while questioning the Justice Department attorney defending the TikTok ban.

The chances of a TikTok ban going into effect are slim. Federal judges in Washington and Pennsylvania have blocked a variety of bans in an attempt to undermine the app’s underlying web infrastructure. And deadlines for a separate order from the Treasury Department to sell the app to an American buyer or for unspecified penalties have passed with no evidence that the administration will be able to force a sale.

With more than 100 million US users, TikTok is one of the most popular apps in the world. The Trump administration has argued that Chinese ownership of the app poses a national security threat. In theory, the government said, the Chinese government could use the app to gain access to the personal information of millions of American citizens.

President Donald Trump blessed a preliminary plan in mid-September in which ByteDance would sell part of TikTok to Oracle Corp., Walmart Inc. and US investors Sequoia Capital, KKR & Co. and General Atlantic, and form a new independent company called TikTok Global. This deal has been pending months.

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