Court of Appeals Hears U.S. Government’s WeChat Ban Appeal

On Thursday, a panel of Appeals Court judges cast doubt on the government’s attempt to reinstate a ban on Tencent Holding’s multi-purpose mobile chat app, WeChat. A District Court Judge rejected a ban on the app at the end of 2020 that was set in motion by an August 2020 executive order issued by U.S. President Donald Trump. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco seemed to be skeptical about the government’s attempt to overturn the District Court decision from September of 2020. 

Trump-appointed Circuit Judge Ryan D. Nelson said during the hearing that he was concerned that enabling the ban would leave millions of Chinese Americans with no alternatives for communication. The government continued to argue that the app poses a national security risk.

 Circuit Judge Jay Bybee, another appointee from a Republican president (George W. Bush), asked government lawyers if it overstepped its authority under the emergency-powers act it invoked. 

The appeal has been taken under submission by the court.

Last year, the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance sued the government to halt a ban of the app in the U.S. (U.S. WeChat Users Alliance v. Trump). Ultimately, a federal judge sided with the group, ruling that banning it would infringe on the free speech of users.

It is unclear if the new administration will continue the Trump administration lawsuits against Chinese companies such as TikTok owner Bytedance, Tencent, and others, as President-elect Joe Biden has not had his cabinet picks approved by Congress yet. Biden will be sworn into office on Jan. 20.


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