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US-China tensions

US judge asks Trump administration to delay TikTok download ban

Block on app kicks in Sunday, but court says it needs more time

TikTok said in its injunction that U.S. prohibitions ‘were not motivated by a genuine national security.'   © Reuters

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- A federal judge in Washington asked the Trump administration on Thursday to consider postponing the looming ban on downloads of the popular video-sharing app TikTok.

TikTok filed a request for a preliminary injunction to a Washington district court on Wednesday, arguing the administration's ban on U.S. users from downloading the app, which is set to take effect Sunday, "dramatically exceed" the Department of Commerce and U.S. President Donald Trump's power under the U.S. law.

The app, and its China-based owner ByteDance, had previously filed a complaint asking the court to overturn the Trump executive order issued in August.

After the Thursday hearing, the judge asked the U.S. government to reconsider implementing the ban on Sunday so the court would have more time to be briefed and decide the case.

The U.S. government has till 2:30 p.m. Friday to notify the court whether it will postpone the deadline or file a motion of opposition to the preliminary injunction TikTok requested, Judge Carl J. Nichols said.

If the Trump administration decides not to extend the deadline, the court will conduct another hearing this week to rule on whether to issue a preliminary injunction to block the government from implementing the ban.

The Commerce Department order was due to take effect last Sunday but was then delayed by a week, after Trump gave his "blessing" last week to a deal between TikTok's Chinese parent ByteDance and two American companies, Oracle and Walmart.

However, ByteDance and the two U.S. companies have made contrasting statements about ownership and control of TikTok Global -- a new entity that will be created under the deal. The Chinese company said it will retain an 80% stake in the new company, however Trump said on Monday he would not approve a deal if Oracle and Walmart do not have "total control."

Oracle said Monday that, "Americans will be the majority and ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global."

Meanwhile, ByteDance said Thursday that it had submitted its proposal for the partnership with Oracle and Walmart to the Chinese commerce authority for approval. China recently tightened its export restrictions on technologies such as content-recommendation algorithms, making it more difficult for ByteDance to sell its U.S. operation.

At the court hearing Thursday, a lawyer representing TikTok said he had no additional insight on the deal's progress.

"As of now, it's my understanding that there is no commercial solution," said John Hall, chair of the litigation practice at Washington-headquartered law firm Covington & Burling.

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