The federal government on Friday appealed a judge’s ruling that prevented the Trump administration from imposing a ban on WeChat, the popular Chinese-owned messaging app.
The Justice Department said in a short filing that it was appealing an injunction issued by Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler of the US District Court for the North District of California. Department of Justice spokeswoman declined to comment further. The appeal was made to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The decision to appeal the injunction blocking the ban start the battle over the future of WeChat, owned by the Chinese company Tencent Holdings.
Officials in Washington have looked to stop people in the United States from using Chinese apps like WeChat and TikTok, and have worked to ban Chinese telecommunications products from American networks.
The Department of Commerce moved to block American companies like Google and Apple from hosting WeChat in their app stores and also bar companies from hosting its data or helping to deliver content to its users.
But Judge Beeler blocked the ban last month, in response to a request from a group that says it represents WeChat users.
Judge Beeler granted an injunction because there were serious questions going to the merits of their argument that the ban violated the First Amendment.
A Department of Justice lawyer argued in the case that the rules were written to protect the rights of WeChat’s users to share personal and business information.
A lawyer for the WeChat users said that we don’t think that they’ve raised any basis for Judge Beeler’s well-reasoned opinion to be disturbed or stayed pending appeal.
He said the government had once again discounted First Amendment concerns about the ban.
The government had asked the judge to put a stay on her injunction before it formally appealed the ruling.
Beijing has for years blocked American websites and apps. But only in recent years has the American government acted against Chinese companies.
It has pushed American companies to ban Chinese telecom providers like Huawei and ZTE. Recently, it has targeted Chinese consumer apps like Grindr, TikTok, and WeChat.
President Trump in August signed an executive order banning WeChat as of midnight on Sept. 13. The injunction temporarily delayed the ban.
The app is widely used around the world, including people in the United States who communicate regularly with friends and family in China.
The Trump administration has also pursued a similar ban of TikTok.
The first part of the ban was delayed to allow the company to try to strike a deal with Oracle and Walmart that gives more control over the app to shareholders in the United States.
A judge issued an injunction temporarily blocking the TikTok ban.