U.S. Judge Halts Trump's TikTok Ban, Hours Before It Was Set To Start
The decision grants TikTok a short-term reprieve, but the wildly popular app's fate still faces an extraordinary amount of uncertainty.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Well, TikTok lives in U.S. app stores, at least for now. A federal judge in Washington sided with the company last night, blocking President Trump's order that bans the video sharing app. The Trump administration, let's remember, calls the app a national security threat and is fighting in court to block TikTok's tock Chinese parent company, ByteDance from operating the app in the U.S. either by banning it outright or forcing a sale to a domestic buyer. We have NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn here. Good morning, Bobby.
BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Good morning, David.
GREENE: OK, so what is this court decision? What does it mean?
ALLYN: So the judge put the brakes on a ban that was going to, like you said, prevent any new downloads of TikTok. That was supposed to take effect at midnight Sunday. And the judge didn't explain his rationale for the ruling. But TikTok's lawyers argued in a hearing just over the weekend that shutting it down would be like shutting down a modern version of the town square. They said that's akin to silencing speech. And there sure is a lot of expression on TikTok, David. I mean, it's the fastest-growing app in the world. You know, it has some hundred million users in the U.S. So, you know, all those users can now breathe a sigh of relief. They can keep posting their lip syncing and other ridiculous videos for now, that is.
GREENE: It's been such an important relief for so many people going through these times of isolation. You say for now. That's important, right? I mean, this might not be the final word at all.
ALLYN: No, yeah, exactly. So this is a breather for TikTok. It buys them time before there's more extensive hearing on Trump's ban. And it's important to note here that the White House is not backing down from that ban. But as this winds its way through the courts, there's one very important date. And that is November 12. That's when TikTok has to find a American buyer or disappear for real in the U.S. TikTok was hoping that the judge would also push back that date. But the judge said, no, we're sticking to the November 12 date.
GREENE: Well, I mean, we heard so much about the potential deal that was supposed to keep TikTok alive in the U.S. for good. What's the latest there?
ALLYN: Yeah, there was hope at one point. You know, parties were racing towards an agreement. But then things sort of went south pretty quickly. Trump gave the green light to software company Oracle to take a stake in TikTok. And Walmart was going to be a major investor. But then over in Beijing, ByteDance, which owns TikTok, said, hey, hey, not so fast. We don't want to lose control of the biggest app to ever come out of China. So talks have stalled. But, you know, the parties haven't given up. You know, they're still discussing how they can maybe resolve this.
But the stakes are so high, David, for TikTok. I mean, even a temporary ban could mean 90% of TikTok's users will quit and join the competitors because, you know, in light of this happening, many other apps have cropped up that see opportunity here and are trying to take, you know, the users who maybe think TikTok might go away and hope that they jump over to their platform.
GREENE: What about this basic question, Bobby? Like, is our data safe on TiokTok if, you know, we're using it in the United States?
ALLYN: Yeah, this is at the very heart of the debate. You know, the Trump administration says having a Chinese owner creates a national security risk since China's government has, you know, unfettered access to private business in the country. And there is a consensus among experts that that's a real concern. But the particular threat from TikTok - that's a lot shakier. The White House has never offered ironclad evidence that China can definitely get its hands on the data of Americans. And TikTok says it's shielded because none of the data is stored on Chinese soil. And most of its data on Americans is encrypted. That said, David, none of those assurances are cooling the heat from the White House.
GREENE: All right. This journey continues.
GREENE: NPR's tech reporter Bobby Allyn. Bobby, thanks so much for covering it.
ALLYN: You got it. Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.