U.S. government appeals judge’s order blocking TikTok restrictions

(Reuters) – The U.S. government on Monday appealed a federal judge’s order that blocked the Commerce Department from imposing restrictions on Chinese-owned short video-sharing app TikTok that would have effectively barred its use in the United States.

President Donald Trump’s administration has cited national security concerns in its targeting of TikTok, arguing that the personal data of U.S. users could be obtained by China’s government. TikTok, which has over 100 million users in the United States, denies the allegation.

In a Dec. 7 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols in Washington issued an order that prevented the Commerce Department from barring data hosting within the United States for TikTok, content delivery services and other technical transactions that Bytedance said would have prevented TikTok’s U.S. use.

The Justice Department said it was appealing Nichols’ order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

A separate U.S. appeals court is set to hear an appeal in February of an October ruling by U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Pennsylvania, who blocked the same restrictions that had been set to take effect on Nov. 12.

Officials briefed on the matter told Reuters it is increasingly unlikely the government will resolve the fate of TikTok in the United States before Trump leaves office on Jan. 20. There is still an outside chance a deal could be struck in January, they said.

In a separate ruling in September, Nichols issued an order blocking the Commerce Department from requiring Apple Inc and Alphabet’s Google to remove the TikTok app from their stores.

A U.S. appeals court in Washington heard the government’s appeal of that ruling two weeks ago.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration opted not to grant TikTok-owner ByteDance a new extension of an order issued by the president in August requiring the company to divest TikTok’s U.S. assets. That gave the Justice Department the power to enforce the divestiture order once the deadline expired.

In a Dec. 16 interview with Reuters, then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen declined to say if the Justice Department would seek to enforce the order. Rosen has since become the acting U.S. attorney general.

Under pressure from the U.S. government, ByteDance has been in talks for months to finalize a deal with Walmart Inc and Oracle Corp to shift TikTok’s U.S. assets into a new entity.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao

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