A US judge has blocked Donald Trump’s executive order banning WeChat in the United States.
In issuing the preliminary injunction, Judge Laurel Beeler wrote that the plaintiffs, a group of US-based WeChat users, had shown “serious questions” in their claim that the executive order threatens the users’ First Amendment rights.
“The plaintiffs’ evidence reflects that 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 wrote.
Nor does the order escape First Amendment scrutiny under an easier standard known as intermediate scrutiny because the ban on WeChat does not provide enough evidence that it is narrowly tailored to resolve the US government’s national security concerns with respect to the app.”
WeChat has more than 1bn users, mostly in China. It combines messaging, online payments, news articles and host of other functions in a single platform and is a primary tool of communication for many ethnic Chinese people in the US.
Beeler pointed out that the US Government had alternatives to a ban:
“as the plaintiffs point out there are obvious alternatives to a complete ban, such as barring WeChat from government devices, as Australia has done, or taking other steps to address data security.”
The WeChat ban, however, will now be stayed nationwide as a result of Judge Beeler’s order. The judge’s order not only blocks the Trump administration’s attempted ban on downloads of WeChat, but also blocks the government’s effort to restrict internet infrastructure companies from carrying or hosting WeChat’s internet traffic.