A US Magistrate judge has thwarted a government attempt to ban the Chinese messaging and payments app, WeChat. The Judge Laurel Beeler noted the blocking of the app contradicts the right to free speech guaranteed through the constitution’s first amendment. The US Department of Commerce had earlier on Sunday announced the ban on WeChat and its removal from all the app stores and platforms in US.
Trump administration considers the ban necessary on the national security grounds. It maintains that black out of the app will safeguard US interests and would discourage the owners of the app to pass the user data to Chinese state. Both WeChat and Beijing have denied the allegations. Tencent, the company behind the application had previously lamented the US decision and called the ban “unfortunate”.
The ruling comes after TikTok, another Chinese app mend its relations with White House reaching a deal with Department of Commerce to partner with US conglomerates Walmart and Oracle in order to continue their business.
A petition submitted from a group of US WeChat users was approved for hearing by court. The group challenged the President’s executive order to shut down the messaging app in America. US Justice Department argued that blocking the executive order would “frustrate and displace the president’s determination of how best to address threats to national security”.
However, San Francisco Judge, Laurel Beeler noted that “while the general evidence about the threat to national security related to China is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest”.
In a statement issued earlier, the US Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the decision to bar the app in the country was taken “to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data”. It alleged that WeChat “collected vast swathes of data form users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories”.
Friday’s statement from the DOC criticized the Beijing saying, the Chinese Communist Party “has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US”. Tencent, the conglomerate holding the app said the messages sent and received using the app are completely encrypted and private.