A request made by the Department of Justice to remove Tencent Holdings' WeChat mobile application from major app stores in the U.S. has been blocked by a U.S. appeals court.
The justice department had initially sought to ban the Chinese app from Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store for U.S.-based users.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, led by a three-judge panel, said in its decision the government agency had not demonstrated enough evidence to warrant the imposition of an immediate ban. It added that the continued existence of the app as of the moment on the online stores will not result in "imminent" and "irreparable" injury to the government.
Last week, a federal judge in San Francisco had rejected an appeal from the justice department to reserve a decision that prevented the banning of the app by the U.S. Commerce Department. The decision came after users of the Chinese app based in the country had filed a lawsuit against the agency.
WeChat users in the U.S., who mostly use the app to more easily communicate in their native Chinese languages, have argued that shutting down the app would result in an "unprecedented shutdown of a major platform for communications" for its millions of U.S.-based users.
The order initially submitted by the Commerce Department would have taken effect last month if it were not barred from being imposed by U.S. courts. Both the Justice Department and the Commerce Department have argued that apps such as WeChat and short-video streaming platform TikTok pose a threat to the country's national security.
The operators of the aforementioned apps have repeatedly denied that their platforms pose any threats to the country's national security. Critics have stated that the move to ban their use is political in nature and part of the Trump administration's continued anti-China rhetoric.
According to Tencent, WeChat has about 19 million daily active users in the U.S. Most of the app's users are Chinese students, Americans living in China, and those with personal or business relationships in China. Similar to Facebook and WhatsApp in the western world, WeChat has become part of daily life for its more than 1 billion active daily users.