TikTok received a lifeline Sunday evening when a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the U.S. government’s decision to ban downloads of the app.
The ban was set to begin at midnight tonight, and the legal maneuver was TikTok’s final gambit to prevent the ban from going into effect, a decision that it had said would begin to erode its business across the world.
“I am very happy that the court has granted an injunction preventing the implementation of the TikTok ban that would have prohibited new users to download the app,” TikTok’s interim chief Vanessa Pappas wrote on Twitter. “We will continue to seek to protect the rights of our users, partners, artists, employees, businesses, and creators.”
President Trump is forcing TikTok’s China-owned parent company, ByteDance, to sell off the app, citing concerns that ByteDance could be unduly pressured by the the Chinese government. ByteDance appears to have a deal worked out with Oracle ORCL +0.8% and Walmart WMT +0.4%, but the terms of the transactions aren’t clear, and both sides have made conflicting comments since announcing the deal last week.
The deal seems to have the U.S. government’s approval, and it now must get a sign off from China’s government. It’s not certain that Chinese authorities will do so with many critics in China unhappy about Trump’s pressure on ByteDance to spin off what was a crown jewel of the country’s technology sector into American hands.
TikTok was a social media phenomenon until it found itself in the president’s crosshairs. It has more than 100 million users in America, and until this summer, it was adding more than 400,000 daily users each day. Then, in August, Trump issued two executive orders that would kill the app in American, a move meant to force ByteDance into selling TikTok.
The first executive order is what TikTok and the government were fighting about in federal court this weekend. It prohibits new downloads but allows the app to keep operating. The second executive order would halt TikTok’s entire U.S. operations beginning Nov. 12. But even this first ban would curtail TikTok’s growth and drive users toward other competing platforms, such as Instagram, YouTube and several much smaller rivals.
Sunday’s court proceedings were only the latest dramatic chapter in the drama surrounding TikTok, which has played out in surprisingly public fashion and involved some of the richest and most powerful figures in politics and business. While lawyers appeared in court early Sunday morning, Judge Carl Nichols did not hand out his decision until around 8:30 this evening, hours before the ban’s start.
-By Abram Brown,Forbes Staff