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WeChat users sue Trump administration over app ban

Group unaffiliated with the app's owner calls the ban unconstitutional.

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- 02:11
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A group of users of the popular messaging app WeChat is suing to block an executive order barring the app in the US.

Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A group of WeChat users filed a lawsuit late Friday against the Trump administration's executive order barring the popular app, calling the prohibition unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in San Francisco, was brought by the US WeChat Alliance Group, a nonprofit group not affiliated with the app's owner.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this month banning US transactions on WeChat, calling the messaging app owned by Chinese giant TenCent a "significant" threat to national security. The user group's lawsuit called the order "vaguely worded" and says it fails to provide evidence that WeChat poses a threat to US national security.

"In a stark violation of the First Amendment, the Executive Order targets and silences WeChat users, the overwhelming majority of whom are members of the Chinese and Chinese-speaking communities," the complaint says. "It regulates constitutionally protected speech, expression, and association and is not narrowly tailored to restrict only that speech which presents national security risks to the United States."

Trump issued sweeping bans on Aug. 6 against WeChat and fellow Chinese tech app TikTok, citing concerns that data that TikTok and WeChat collect "vast swaths of information from its users" from their US users. There is also concern that Chinese companies may be unable to reject requests from China's ruling Communist Party to access that data. Often cited by critics of China is a 2017 law that requires Chinese companies and citizens to comply with all matters of national security.

"The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People's Republic of China continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," the executive order reads

The app has more than 1 billion users worldwide, with more than 19 million daily users in the US, according to analytics firms Apptopia.

But analysts have warned of the particular risk of a WeChat ban to American businesses. Experts warn that a WeChat ban could seriously limit the ability of US companies to compete at their current level in Chinese markets. Apple iPhone sales, for instance, could drop 30% worldwide if the ban forces Apple's App Store to drop WeChat, according to one Apple analyst.

Neither the White House nor TenCent immediately responded to requests for comment.