WeChat users will not be subjected to any civil or criminal liabilities even if the U.S. bans the Chinese-controlled messaging platform through other sets of measures in the coming days, the U.S. Department of Justice disclosed on Wednesday.
The U.S. government's filing was made in reaction to charges filed in August by a group of WeChat users who have no affiliation with the firm that owns the app and claimed that President Donald Trump's restriction is illegal.
Trump issued orders on Aug. 6 that targeted the Chinese messaging app and TikTok, asserting that they pose threats to national security. He also set a Sept. 20 deadline for U.S. Commerce officials to craft policies that would ban "transactions" with the apps' Chinese owners.
The lawsuit filed by the user groups - called WeChat Users Alliance and several people - sought a court prohibition against Trump's "vaguely worded" order and stressing it failed to prove that WeChat is a threat to U.S. national security.
In the filing, the Justice Department said it had informed the user groups that the court order does not prohibit them from using the WeChat app. The lawsuit claims the ban infringes on U.S. users' freedom of expression, the exercise of religion, and other constitutional rights.
In its Aug. 23 charge, the WeChat users group stated that Trump's executive order "targets and silences WeChat users, an overwhelming majority of whom are members of the Chinese and Chinese-speaking communities," CNET quoted a portion of the lawsuit document as saying. Wilbur Ross, Secretary of the Commerce, is set to release regulations on Sunday to throw light on what WeChat transactions will be restricted.
The Tencent-owned WeChat has been downloaded nearly 20 million times in the U.S. alone, based on data from Sensor Tower, however in China, the app is a very common medium for games, communication, payments, and other services.