By Katy Stech Ferek 

The Trump administration asked a California judge to allow a ban on the Chinese-owned app WeChat to proceed, citing what it said are urgent national-security concerns about the Chinese government's potential collection of data on American users of the app.

In a court-filed request late Thursday, officials asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler to reverse her earlier determination that the government's national-security concerns weren't strong enough to warrant a U.S. ban on the app, owned by tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd.

On Sunday, she issued a preliminary injunction preventing U.S. Commerce Department officials from implementing a ban on WeChat downloads and other prohibitions designed to erode WeChat's usefulness. Several WeChat users had sued the federal government over the proposed ban, saying it violated free-speech protections.

With their filing, U.S. Justice Department lawyers offered Judge Beeler new documents they say back up national-security concerns, including two U.S. reports that they say detail the Chinese government's espionage operations against the U.S., its influence over companies such as Tencent and a Chinese legal requirement that private companies play a role in gathering intelligence and surveillance.

U.S. officials urged Judge Beeler to lift her earlier preliminary injunction decision by Oct. 1, a time line that would still leave the U.S. government time to appeal the case to another judge. In her earlier decision, Judge Beeler said the U.S. government hadn't provided enough evidence about its national-security concerns.

WeChat gives the Chinese government the power "surveil the American people and collect and use vast swaths of personal and proprietary information from American users to advance its own interests," the government lawyers said in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Tencent has said it disagrees with the federal government's security concerns, saying it "incorporates the highest standards of user privacy and data security."

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 25, 2020 15:35 ET (19:35 GMT)

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