Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat app appears in the App Store on a smartphone in an arranged photo taken in Arlington, Virginia on Friday, August 7, 2020.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A looming US ban on the Chinese app WeChat is not aimed at people using the app to communicate, according to a government court filed on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump issued an order on August 6th targeting WeChat and TikTok as alleged national security threats, giving the Commerce Department a September 20 deadline to take specific measures to block “transactions”
The U.S. nonprofit WeChat Users Alliance and several people who say they rely on the app to work, worship, and keep in touch with relatives in China sued the ban in federal court in California. The lawsuit states that the ban violates the freedom of speech, religion, and other constitutional rights of US users.
The WeChat users who state that they are not affiliated with WeChat or its parent company Tencent are seeking an injunction against the order. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
WeChat users in the US rely on the app to talk to friends, family and colleagues in China, where the messaging, payments and social media app are widely used. It has several million users in the US
The Justice Department said on the file filed on Wednesday that the Commerce Department “does not intend to take action targeting any person or group whose only connection with WeChat is to use or download the app to convey personal or business information between users. ” It added that such users would not face “criminal or civil liability”.
The government record said that using and downloading the app to communicate will not be a prohibited transaction, although sending messages in the app could be “directly or indirectly affected” by the ban.
The Justice Department’s file states that these “representations largely address concerns raised by plaintiffs who have sought an injunction”.
WeChat users’ senior attorney Michael Bien said in an interview that plaintiffs will file a response later Wednesday.