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Image: TikTok

The US Commerce Department has said it will not enforce an executive order that would have effectively forced TikTok to shut down in order to comply with a Pennsylvanian federal court decision.

“The Secretary’s prohibition of identified transactions pursuant to Executive Order 13942, related to TikTok, has been enjoined, and will not go into effect, pending further legal developments,” the department said.

The executive order in question, issued by outgoing President Donald Trump in August, stated that TikTok would be banned unless it was divested to a US company by November 12. This has not yet been finalised, however.

The presiding judge, Wendy Beetlestone, granted the block against Trump’s executive order as there was a clear likelihood that irreparable harm could be made to the plaintiffs’ ability to engage large audiences on the TikTok platform. The lawsuit was filed by three TikTok “influencers”: Douglas Marland, Cosette Rinab, and Alex Chambers.

Despite accepting the injunction, the Commerce Department has filed an appeal against the court’s decision.

In addition to appealing the Pennsylvanian case, the Commerce Department is currently fighting for a TikTok ban in two other cases. In one of those cases, TikTok has filed its own injunction for the executive order to be set aside at the District Court of Columbia. 

TikTok said it wanted its own injunction as the plaintiffs in the Pennsylvanian case are differently situated, have alleged different harms, and brought different claims. 

“If the Court adopted the government’s position ‘that an order granting a nationwide, preliminary injunction in one district [is] sufficient to shut down all other, similar litigation,’ the resolution of important questions would be left to a single district court and to a single circuit, losing the benefit of the airing of competing views on difficult issues of national importance,” TikTok said in its court filing.

In the third case, the Chinese-owned company has filed a separate preliminary injunction at the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to seek additional time for the potential divestiture of the company.

The request for more time comes as the preliminary deal approved by Trump in September, where Oracle and Walmart would take a combined 20% share of TikTok Global to create a new US-based company, has not yet been finalised. 

“Without an extension in hand, we have no choice but to file a petition in court to defend our rights,” ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, said in a statement.

With the latest injunction, both of Trump’s executive orders that he signed in early August have been blocked by US federal courts. The other executive order, which sought to remove TikTok from the Apple and Google app stores, was blocked in late September.

The Commerce Department has also appealed that block, saying at the time it would “vigorously defend” the TikTok ban from legal challenges.

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