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US Government Says Next WeChat Ban Won’t Target Users

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Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat app is displayed in the App Store on a smartphone in an organized photograph taken in Arlington, Virginia on Friday, August 7, 2020.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

An impending US ban on the Chinese app WeChat will not target people who use the app to communicate, according to a government court filing on Wednesday.

On August 6, President Donald Trump issued orders targeting WeChat and TikTok as alleged national security threats and imposed a September 20 deadline for the Commerce Department to draft specific measures to block “transactions” with Chinese owners of the applications.

The U.S. nonprofit WeChat Users Alliance and several people who say they rely on the app for work, worship, and stay in touch with loved ones in China have filed a lawsuit to end the ban before a California federal court. The lawsuit says the ban violates the freedom of speech of its American users, the free exercise of religion and other constitutional rights.

WeChat users, who say they are not affiliated with WeChat or its parent company, Tencent, are seeking an injunction against the order, and a hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

WeChat users in the United States depend on the app to talk to their friends, family, and colleagues in China, where the messaging, payment, and social media app is widely used. It has several million users in the United States

The Justice Department said in Wednesday’s filing that the Commerce Department “has no intention of taking any action that would target individuals or groups whose only connection to WeChat is their use or downloading of the web. ‘application to transmit personal or professional information between users “. He added that these users would not be exposed to “criminal or civil liability”.

The government record said using and downloading the app to communicate would not be a prohibited transaction, although messaging on the app may be “directly or indirectly affected” by the ban.

The Justice Department’s filing said these “assurances largely address” concerns raised by plaintiffs who sought injunctive relief.

Lead counsel for WeChat users, Michael Bien, said in an interview that plaintiffs will file a response later Wednesday.

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