A federal judge in California put a temporary halt on the White House's efforts to ban WeChat inside the United States, preventing that ban from going into effect at midnight tonight.
"The plaintiffs have shown serious questions going to the merits of their First Amendment Claim," US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler wrote in her ruling (PDF) early this morning.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of WeChat users inside the US. The group, organized as the US WeChat Users Alliance, argued in their complaint that the ban violated their First and Fifth Amendment rights as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedures Act. The group also argues that the law cited in the executive order banning WeChat does not in fact give President Donald Trump the authority claimed in the order.
The Alliance established "that there are no viable substitute platforms or apps for the Chinese-speaking and Chinese-American community," Beeler added. Their evidence shows 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."
The government does have a compelling national security interest, Beeler's ruling concludes, but the administration "has put in scant little evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all US users addresses those concerns."
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