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WeChat users group sues Trump administration over ban it says is unconstitutional

WeChat users group sues Trump administration over ban it says is unconstitutional


The president’s executive order barred all transactions with WeChat

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

A group of WeChat users is suing the Trump administration over the president’s executive order banning transactions with the app, The Wall Street Journal reported. The group isn’t affiliated with WeChat or its owner Tencent, but seeks to block the president’s August 6th order which the group says is unconstitutional because it violates users’ due process and free speech rights, according to the Journal.

The lawsuit also argues that the ban targets Chinese-Americans. “It is the primary app Chinese-speakers in the U.S. use to participate in social life by connecting with loved ones, sharing special moments, arguing ideas, receiving up-to-the minute news, and participating in political discussions and advocacy,” the lawsuit states, and has “become essential to the conduct of daily life for its users, many of whom regularly spend hours each day on the app.” 

President Trump’s executive order explicitly blocks “any transaction that is related to WeChat.” There’s been significant confusion about the ban, which is set to take effect next month, because of its broad language. It was one of a pair of executive orders the president signed which targeted Chinese companies, the other blocked all transactions with ByteDance, the parent company of video-sharing app TikTok. Both orders invoke the Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act.

“WeChat, like TikTok... may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party,” Trump’s order against WeChat states. Both WeChat and TikTok have maintained they are not security risks.

On Saturday, TikTok confirmed it plans to sue the Trump administration over the order. It’s been in talks with Microsoft about the software giant possibly acquiring TikTok’s US operations, and other companies including Twitter and Oracle also were reportedly in separate talks with TikTok.

The WeChat user alliance is made up of people who say they depend on WeChat for personal and business purposes. An attorney for the group says it’s hoping that the Trump administration will have to provide notice for which WeChat transactions would be subject to the ban, according to the Journal.

WeChat is widely used for shopping, payments, and other business transactions in China; with an estimated 1 billion users in that country, compared to 1.5 million users in the US.

Earlier this month, more than a dozen American companies including Apple, Ford, Disney, and Walmart pushed back against the WeChat ban, telling White House officials on a call how a WeChat ban would be problematic for them and their businesses. 

UPDATE August 23rd 10:15AM ET: Added details from the text of the lawsuit