(FreedomJournal.org)- President Donald Trump cannot ban the app WeChat from operating in the United States, a federal judge ruled.
The president’s executive order that would have shut down the Chinese communication app represents a violation of free speech, the judge ruled. Trump’s order was set to shut down WeChat on Sunday night, after he invoked a national emergency that targeted WeChat on national security grounds.
There are currently 19 million people in the U.S. who use the app, which has 1.2 billion users across the world.
A preliminary injunction was issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler of Northern California. She sided with users of WeChat, who filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, saying his executive order curbed their rights under the First Amendment.
In her ruling, Beeler wrote:
“Certainly, the government’s overarching national-security interest is significant.” But the administration “has put in scant evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all U.S. users addresses those concerns.”
WeChat is both a social media platform and a communications platform. It has become a primary way for people in the U.S. to stay in touch with their family over in China, since it’s one of the only communication apps that is allowed to operate in both China and the U.S.
The platform allows people to not only communicate, but also to transfer money, read the news and purchase flights. As Beeler explained in her ruling:
“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.” Beeler compared the app to “a virtual public square for the Chinese-speaking and Chinese-American community.”
The U.S. WeChat Users Alliance, which is a non-profit organization that represents users of the app, filed the lawsuit challenging Trump’s executive order. Lawyers for the group alleged that Trump made various statements that were anti-Chinese before banning the app. They specifically referred to Trump describing the coronavirus as both the “Kung-Flu” and “the China virus.”
One of the lawyers that was representing WeChat users, Thomas Burke, said:
“Never before has a President sought to ban an entire social media platform — used by a minority community to communicate — with such discriminator animus and haste.”
TenCent, a Chinese tech company, owns WeChat. The Trump administration has said that the Chinese government has access to use WeChat to harvest data of millions of Americans. White House officials have also said the app censors any content that the Chinese Communist Party disagrees with, therefore alleging the app can be used for disinformation campaigns.
In her order, Beeler said there’s considerable evidence that some technology companies in China do just that, posing a legitimate threat to U.S. national security. However, she said “the specific evidence about WeChat is modest.”
There is no word from the Trump administration on whether it plans to appeal Beeler’s order as of yet.