App remains in circulation

Can’t live without: The WeChat app seen next to its logo. The app has an average of 19 million daily active users in the US. — REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO: A US judge here has rejected a Justice Department request to reverse a decision that allowed Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google to continue to offer Chinese-owned WeChat for download app stores in the United States.US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said the government’s new evidence did not change her opinion about the Tencent app.

As it has with Chinese video app TikTok, the Justice Department has argued WeChat threatens national security.

WeChat has an average of 19 million daily active users in the US. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.

WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo.

The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than a billion users.

The Justice Department has appealed Beeler’s decision permitting the continued use of the Chinese mobile app to the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals, but no ruling is likely before December.

In a suit brought by WeChat users, Beeler last month blocked a US Commerce Department order set to take effect on Sept 20 that would have required the app to be removed from US app stores.

The Commerce Department order issued on Sept 18 would also bar other US transactions with WeChat, potentially making the app unusable in the US.

The US government then submitted additional information to the court, appealing to alter the court’s ruling.

According to Beeler’s new order, the court preliminarily enjoined the ban because the plaintiffs, US-based users of WeChat, met the standards for a preliminary injunction.

She said the evidence “supports the conclusion that the restrictions ‘burden substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s legitimate interests’”.

The plaintiffs, including the US WeChat Users Alliance and other app users, argued that WeChat is irreplaceable for its users in the US, particularly in the Chinese-speaking and Chinese-American community. — Xinhua/China Daily/ANN

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