Tencent in talks for 'longterm solution' to WeChat mess as injunction keeps the app alive

Ban on app ruled a restriction on free speech

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Tencent-owned messaging-and-more app WeChat has evaded the USA’s ban on its presence in app stores and on the internet - for now - after the United States District Court granted a preliminary injunction against the Executive Order that branded the service a national security risk.

That Executive Order was made on August 6th and mentioned a ban on “transactions” with WeChat without spelling out what sort of transaction would be barred. The Order gave the Trump administration 45 days to fill in the blanks, but other than exempting end-users from punishment no information was forthcoming until the September 17th news that WeChat would be banned from App stores operated by US companies and its traffic would be unwelcome on any US internet service provider, peer, network operator or content delivery network. Those bans would have left WeChat operational on users' phones, but almost certainly meant messages did not transit any US networks.

A group named the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance (USWA) opposed the Executive Order in court and on Sunday won an injunction that will keep WeChat alive in the USA.

On The Register’s reading of the order [PDF], United States Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler liked the USWA’s arguments that banning WeChat is a restriction of free speech and therefore contravenes the First Amendment of the US constitution. Beeler also agreed that WeChat users would be harmed by a ban and that the only remedy is keeping the service alive.

It is unclear how or if the Trump administration intends to respond to the injunction.

Tencent, however, has signaled that it is in talks with the US government to address the situation.

In a voluntary notice [PDF] to the Hong Kong stock exchange, where Tencent maintains a listing, the company said it has “been engaging and will continue to engage in discussions with the U.S. government and other stakeholders in the United States to achieve a longterm solution.”

Just what that might be was not disclosed, with Tencent saying only it “will make further announcement(s) in the event of any material developments of the above matter.”

With an improbable Oracle/WalMart alliance of convenience having found a way to keep TikTok alive, it’s hard to rule anything out! ®


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