Caixin
Sep 10, 2020 03:01 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

WeChat Users Can’t Second-Guess Trump’s Authority, U.S. Says

The U.S. government has responded to a lawsuit by an alliance of users’ of Tencent’s popular WeChat app, arguing that the group can’t demand evidence from the president on national security issues. Photo: Bloomberg
The U.S. government has responded to a lawsuit by an alliance of users’ of Tencent’s popular WeChat app, arguing that the group can’t demand evidence from the president on national security issues. Photo: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — A group of WeChat users trying to block a U.S. ban of the Chinese “SuperApp” can’t challenge President Donald Trump’s authority to make national security decisions, the U.S. said.

“To hold otherwise would allow a group of social media users to substitute their subjective judgment” for that of the president “merely because they are unable to use an app that they prefer,” the government said Wednesday in a filing in San Francisco federal court.

The U.S. WeChat Users Alliance filed a lawsuit to halt Trump’s Aug. 6 order that will prohibit residents from doing transactions with Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat as well as with ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok starting this month. The U.S. government claims the apps can be used by the Chinese Communist Party to spread disinformation, censor content critical of China, and allow the CCP to access Americans’ personal and proprietary information.

The Commerce Department is to specify by Sept. 20 which transactions with the apps will be off limits for Americans. Until then, the U.S. says, the WeChat users can’t seek to halt the president’s order. TikTok filed a similar lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court and has said it will wait for the Commerce Department to explain what the president’s order entails before asking a judge to block it.

In Wednesday’s filing, the U.S. said the president doesn’t have to provide exhaustive evidence to justify his decision that the apps are a national security threat. The government referred to the U.S. Supreme Court decision two years ago upholding Trump’s travel ban for visitors from a group of Muslim countries that the president doesn’t need “to conclusively link all of the pieces in the puzzle.”

Publicly available reporting by Congress, the executive branch and private security researchers support Trump’s decision, according to the government. In particular, a detailed report last year by an Australian think tank explained that cooperation between the CCP and private enterprise in China was the “crown jewel” of a foreign policy to build and control a global infrastructure to make the CCP’s ideas the strongest voice in cyberspace, the U.S. said.

Contact editor Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)

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