Justice Department Appeals Injunction Against WeChat


(WSJ) The Trump administration filed court papers Friday seeking to overturn a federal magistrate’s Sept. 20 ruling that stopped a U.S. ban on China’s ubiquitous messaging and e-commerce app WeChat. 


The federal government asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review U.S. Magistrate Laurel Beeler’s ruling in favor of a WeChat users group, which contended that the ban violates free-speech protections.

President Trump ordered the ban, saying WeChat poses a national-security risk because data gathered on the app could be shared with China’s authoritarian government.

But Judge Beeler, who serves on the U.S. District Court in San Francisco,  said the government hadn’t provided enough evidence about its national-security concerns to warrant an immediate U.S. ban on the app, which is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd.

The appeal filed by Justice Department lawyers Friday didn’t lay out their grounds for overturning the ruling.

But in the days since the ruling, they filed with the court additional details about their national-security concerns about the Chinese government’s potential collection of data on American users of the app and asked Judge Beeler to reconsider her earlier ruling after reviewing the new details.

In that Sept. 24 reconsideration request, Justice Department lawyers offered Judge Beeler new documents they say back up national-security concerns, including two U.S. reports that they say detail the Chinese government’s espionage operations against the U.S., its influence over companies such as Tencent and a Chinese legal requirement that private companies play a role in gathering intelligence and surveillance.

Tencent has said it disagrees with the federal government’s security concerns, saying it “incorporates the highest standards of user privacy and data security.”

Judge Beeler set an Oct. 15 hearing to go over that reconsideration request, which is separate from the appeal filed Friday.

Her ruling was one of two recent court decisions that have stalled the Trump administration’s effort to crack down on Chinese-owned apps over security and privacy concerns.

On Sept. 27, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., put a hold on proposed restrictions on popular video-sharing app TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance Ltd. but would become a U.S.-based company under a proposed deal with Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. 

The TikTok deal, which would institute data-security safeguards for TikTok users, is now being reviewed by U.S. national-security officials.

Source: Wall Street Journal by Katy Stech Ferek

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