Judge Allows Downloads of TikTok to Continue, Halting Trump’s App Store Ban

Emergency hearing before midnight deadline buys more time as Nov. 12 sale mandate looms

With only hours to spare, TikTok got a judge's approval to remain on Google and Apple app stores. Getty Images
Headshot of Scott Nover

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., today halted the Trump administration’s ban on new downloads of TikTok, hours before a midnight deadline would have compelled Apple and Google to drop the popular social media app from their marketplaces.

Carl Nichols, a judge for the U.S. District Court for D.C., granted an injunction, allowing new app downloads to proceed, despite the government’s insistence that new downloads would constitute an urgent national security risk.

The decision affords TikTok more time to spin off into a new company ahead of the government’s next deadline on Nov. 12. The new company, called TikTok Global, will see Oracle and Walmart take a combined 20% stake alongside other investors. 

The judge solely ruled on the app install ban ahead of tonight’s deadline, declining to rule on the rest of the Commerce Department’s prohibitions—which effectively form an all-out ban of TikTok service in the United States—which go into effect after the November deadline. 

This morning, Nichols held an emergency hearing where lawyers for TikTok and the government made their cases ahead of tonight’s looming deadline, which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had extended from last week. 

“We’re pleased that the court agreed with our legal arguments and issued an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok app ban,” said spokesperson Laura Perez. “We will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees. At the same time, we will also maintain our ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the president gave his preliminary approval to last weekend, into an agreement.”

The Commerce Department said the government will comply with the injunction, but “intends to vigorously defend the [executive order] and the Secretary’s implementation efforts from legal challenges.” The White House and Justice Department declined to comment.

While Nichols ruled today, he delayed the release of his opinion until Monday, giving both parties a chance to review the opinion and request redactions for sensitive information ahead of its public release.

At today’s hearing, TikTok’s lawyers argued that Trump’s Aug. 6 executive order, which includes the app ban, violated the company’s First Amendment right to free speech and that of its users, as well as its Fifth Amendment due process rights.

The lawyers for TikTok also argued that the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, or IEEPA, the law that Trump invoked for the executive order, does not apply to social media companies because of a carve-out for “any postal, telegraphic, telephonic, or other personal communication.”

A federal judge in San Francisco granted a similar preliminary injunction on Trump’s ban of WeChat last week, citing likely First Amendment free speech violations.

Sunday’s hearing was originally intended to be sealed, but the judge approved a motion late Saturday from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a press freedom advocacy group, requesting it be available to the public and press via teleconference. 

The Reporters Committee was not the only third party to weigh in this weekend. NetChoice, a tech industry trade association that counts Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon as members, on Saturday filed an amicus brief in support of TikTok, which is also a NetChoice member.

@ScottNover scott.nover@adweek.com Scott Nover is a platforms reporter at Adweek, covering social media companies and their influence.