Judge blocks WeChat ban, app stops short of joining China-US tech shutdowns

Judge blocks WeChat ban, app stops short of joining China-US tech shutdowns

A US judge on Sunday blocked the government’s ban on WeChat downloads, hours before it was due to take effect in an ongoing technology and espionage battle between Washington and Beijing.

The Trump administration had ordered a ban on downloads of the messaging platform WeChat as well as hugely popular video-sharing app TikTok, both owned by Chinese companies. Both bans have now been suspended.

Owned by technology giant Tencent, WeChat has around 19 million active daily users in the United States, and the ban would have slowed the app down, making it unusable for video chats with family and friends, according to experts.

As President Donald Trump seeks a breakthrough with voters to win a second term in the November 3 election, he has increasingly put national security and his aggressive stance toward China at the center of his campaign. The POTUS has repeatedly accused Democratic opponent Joe Biden of weakness toward Beijing.

Trump said on Saturday that he had approved a deal allowing Silicon Valley giant Oracle to become data partner for TikTok to avert a shutdown of that app.

The deal, announced by the companies, includes Walmart as a commercial partner and would create a new US company named TikTok Global.

WeChat is “mostly used by Chinese visiting or working here or by Chinese-Americans staying in touch with their relatives,” said William Reinsch of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

That includes several hundred thousand Chinese students in the United States, who use it for daily online conversations.

Trump has often claimed, without providing evidence, that TikTok and WeChat are collecting user data for Beijing.

[Sourced from AFP]

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