Federal Government Appeals TikTok Ban Injunction

The Justice Department Oct. 8 filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, saying the preliminary injunction issued last month delaying a ban of Chinese-owned social media video app TikTok should be lifted.

The injunction issued Sept. 27 by Judge Carl Nichols in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia prevented the Trump Administration from banning use of the TikTok app in the U.S. Trump alleges TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, remains a security threat by collecting data on U.S. users and storing it on Chinese-based servers.

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The ban, which also includes the WeChat app owned by Chinese media giant Tencent, is part of the administration’s ongoing Cold War with China that is partly based on politics and commercial trade between the world’s two largest economies.

Trump in August issued an executive order mandating the ban unless TikTok sold its U.S. operations. An acquisition deal involving chip maker Oracle and Walmart for 20% in a newly configured ByteDance parent remains in the works, but has not been finalized.

Trump’s ban could affect the 100 million Americans who use TikTok for social messaging and commercial influencing. At the same time, China has been blocking its citizens from using American apps such as Facebook, Twitter — and Netflix.

While Netflix is not a social media service, the world’s largest SVOD platform remains largely a non-player in China. In 2017, Netflix licensed select original content to iQiyi in the erstwhile communist country. That agreement reportedly ended last year due to limited consumer response, according to iQiyi CEO Gong Yu.

“We had an agreement with Netflix two years ago, but because of the verification system and users’ tastes, the effect wasn’t that great, so we didn’t continue the partnership,” Yu said in a media interview last year translated by CNBC.

Federal Judge Blocks Trump’s TikTok Ban in the U.S.

With President Trump’s Aug. 6 executive order banning social media video app TikTok in the United States set to go into effect Sept. 27, a federal court judge in Washington D.C. has reportedly approved a preliminary injunction blocking the order.

Chinese-based TikTok owner ByteDance Sept. 23 filed for an expedited preliminary injunction against Trump’s executive order, calling it politically motivated and lacking in merit. The Trump Administration, which is involved in ongoing trade and ethnic Muslim disputes with China, argued the TikTok app posed a threat to national security. TikTok reportedly has more than 100 million U.S. users on a monthly basis.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols, who was appointed to the bench by Trump in 2019, reportedly felt TikTok had not been given the proper time to defend itself in court.

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“This was a largely unilateral decision with very little opportunity for plaintiffs to be heard,” said the judge as reported by the Washington Post.

Trump had initially given his public approval (in a North Carolina campaign rally) for a proposed TikTok asset sale to Oracle and Walmart. But when it was revealed that Oracle and Walmart would collectively own just 20% of new entity TikTok Global, with China controlling 80%, Trump changed his mind.

This is the second legal setback for Trump, who saw a second executive order banning China’s WeChat app overruled by a San Francisco federal magistrate, which cited First Amendment issues in ruling against the president.

Trump Wants Oracle/TikTok Deal, Which Now Includes Walmart, to Include $5 Billion for Educational Programs

President Trump has big plans for TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media app and video platform currently in sale talks with Oracle — and Walmart.

Speaking Sept. 19 at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., Trump said the proposed executive order banning TikTok in the United States had been delayed a week so the reported $20 billion sale of TikTok in the U.S. by parent ByteDance to Oracle and Walmart could be finalized. The retail behemoth had previously been associated with a joint bid with Microsoft that had been rejected. TikTok has about 100 million users in the United States.

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Under the proposed deal reported by CNN Business, which needs to be approved by Chinese regulators, TikTok would relocate its headquarters to Texas, hiring 25,000 workers in the process. More importantly, TikTok would store user data on Oracle servers rather than on the current Chinese-based servers — which had prompted initial concerns by the Trump Administration over cyber and national security.

“I’ve given the deal my blessing,” Trump said. “If it gets done, that’s great. If they don’t that’s OK, too.”

It’s been reported that Trump is seeking $5 billion from the “TikTok Global” transaction to help fund an educational project the president claims “can educate people as to real history of our country — the real history, not the fake history.”

Both Oracle and Walmart — as publicly held companies — are not legally obligated to fund Trump’s educational project.

Trump is proposing the fund in response to the “1619 Project,” which was started by The New York Times in 2019 on the 400th anniversary of slavery in the United States. The project aims to put consequences of slavery and contributions of black Americans as its main theme but has been criticized by historians.

Trump previously tweeted that planned rollout of the “1619 Project” in public schools in California would not be supported by the federal government.

“Department of Education is looking at this,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “If so, they will not be funded.”

Roku Not Kicking OANN Off Platform Despite Controversy

Roku says it will not remove conservative TV platform One America News Network (OANN) from its platform despite allegations that the San Diego-based pro-Trump network is peddling dangerous unproven conspiratorial allegations.

“We operate a platform with a wide selection of entertainment and content with diverse points of view. While we do not block or censor content based on viewpoint, we reserve the right to remove a channel that has the potential to cause harm to our platform,” Roku said in a media statement. “We are not removing the channel at this time.”

Roku previously removed third-party content (Alex Jones’ InfoWars, among others) from its platform, citing violation of the company’s content standards. The streaming media pioneer has 40 million subscribers on its platform, which includes ad-supported The Roku Channel.

Specifically, criticism revolves around an OANN story Trump cited on Twitter that claimed 75-year-old protester Martin Gugino shown last week on social media being shoved by Buffalo police at a Black Lives Matter rally is an Antifa agitator. Gugino fell backwards, hitting his head and knocked unconscious with blood seeping out of his ear.

The OANN story claims Gugino approached police looking to engage law enforcement for political gain. Trump has declared Antifa — which often engages in militant opposition to political doctrines it disagrees with — a domestic terrorist organization. Gugino, who remains hospitalized, has no known ties to Antifa or any violent group.

Regardless, Trump June 9 on Twitter alleged Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out their equipment.

“@OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?,” Trump tweeted.

The president’s post drew immediate pushback from media observers and politicians across the aisle. “It’s a serious accusation, which should only be made with facts and evidence, and I haven’t seen any yet,” John Thune (R-SD), the second-leading Republican (after Mitch McConnell) in the U.S. Senate, told reporters.

NFL Says It Now Supports Peaceful Social Justice Protest

In a surprise move, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell late June 5 said the league now fully supports players voicing their concerns about social injustice and police brutality — a stance the NFL decidedly avoided in recent years, especially during the early days of the Trump Administration.

In a video posted on social media, Goodell, without naming any players (i.e. former San Francisco 49er QB Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016 kneeled during the national anthem), said the NFL was wrong for ignoring previous protests about social injustice.

“We, the National Football League condemn racism and systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell said on the video. “We, the National Football League admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League believe black lives matter.”

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The admission comes 12 days after an unarmed black man (George Floyd) was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day. With the killing spurring violent protests across the country, and the fact African-American players comprise 70% of its on-field talent, the NFL, like many industries, has taken proactive steps to project an air of social and racial awareness.

That stance took a hit this week when rookie Buffalo Bills QB and former University of Georgia standout Jake Fromm was forced to apologize for racist comments he made in personal messaging that was leaked online.

Then veteran New Orleans QB Drew Brees, a fixture in NFL marketing, told a Yahoo Finance interview that he did not support anyone disrespecting the American flag. Kaepernick’s protests had been usurped by conservatives and President Trump, who claimed by kneeling the QB was dissing the flag, military, veterans and country.

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“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees told Yahoo.

Brees quickly apologized twice for his comments, saying he couldn’t imagine the hurt and anguish he had caused black teammates, fans and the city of New Orleans.

“[My comments] lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy,” Brees wrote on Instagram. “Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character.”

Trump June 5 weighed in on the matter angrily tweeting that Brees should not have to apologize for his position on the flag.

“I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag,” Trump tweeted. “OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high. We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag — NO KNEELING!”

Brees responded, saying he vowed to be an “ally” for black people and social justice.

“Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been,” Brees wrote. “We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.

“We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform. We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when?

“We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”

The NFL has pledged $20 million in financial support to organizations fighting for social justice and racial equality.

Netflix’s Seth Meyers Comedy Special Lets Viewers Skip Trump Jokes

Netflix introduced binge-streaming, content recommendation software and fast-tracking credits and intros on original series. Now the subscription streaming pioneer is letting users skip jokes in a comedy special.

The concept reportedly originated from former SNL writer/comic Seth Meyers, whose comedy special, “Lobby Baby,” bows Nov. 5 on Netflix. The comic suggested viewers have the option to skip punchlines on President Trump — a staple of his NBC show, “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

“It was a way to build in the response to anyone who would say, ‘Oh, let me guess, there’s going to be jokes about the President,'” Meyers told CNN Business.

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Meyers has a long career lampooning Trump, which began in 2011 when he poked fun of then headline star of “The Apprentice” at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

The comic contends the skip function is a joke in itself and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

“Look, sometimes at a fancy restaurant they’ll put parsley on your plate and you’ll think, well that’s a nice touch, but you’re not going to eat the parsley,” Meyers quipped.

Robbie Praw, director of original standup comedy programming at Netflix, said Meyers’ skip function was a “clever idea” in today’s hyper-partisan atmosphere.

“We’re thrilled he was able to take advantage of the Netflix experience in such a funny and innovative way,” Praw said.

 

Trump Says Congress Should Investigate Obama’s ‘Ridiculous Netflix Deal’

President Donald Trump Sept. 16 — in an early morning tweet — lashed out at a federal appeals court’s decision to re-open allegations he improperly receives money through his businesses from foreign and domestic leaders in order to curry political favor from him.

His opponents claim doing so would be in violation of the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York Sept. 13 re-opened the ethics complaint, brought about by various plaintiffs, including watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

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The original complaint was dismissed by a lower court in 2017.

Regardless, Trump used the occasion to criticize former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama’s book publishing deal and separate original content agreement with Netflix.

The book and streaming video deals occurred after the Obamas were out of the White House and private citizens.

In April, Higher Ground Productions, the Obamas’ production company in partnership with Netflix, announced an initial slate of upcoming projects, encompassing fiction and nonfiction productions; scripted, unscripted and documentary series; and full-length features and documentaries.

Michelle’s memoir Becoming, remains a national bestseller with more than 7.5 million copies sold.

Best Buy, Roku, Apple Shares Rebound Following Tariff Delay

Shares of Best Buy, Roku, Apple and other consumer electronics retailers/manufactures rebounded after President Trump delayed until Dec. 15 a proposed new 10% tariff on cellphones, laptop computers, video game consoles and other goods manufactured in China.

The tariff on $300 billion worth of products, which Trump announced Aug. 1 as part of ongoing trade tensions with the world’s No. 2 economic power, would have been on top of an existing 25% tariff Trump previously imposed on $250 billion worth of other Chinese goods.

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The delay came after intense lobbying efforts in the nation’s capital convinced administration officials the new tariff could have serious implications to the U.S. economy entering the fourth quarter.

“Just in case they might have an impact on people … what we’ve done is we’ve delayed it so they won’t be relevant for the Christmas shopping season,” Trump told reporters on Aug. 13.

The news was welcomed by Wall Street, which saw shares of Best Buy, Apple and Roku rise 6.5%, 4% and 1%, respectively.

Roku is one of the largest manufacturer of Internet-connected televisions, with many originating from China.

But to the Consumer Technology Association trade group, delaying proposed tariffs only prolongs market uncertainty and impacts consumers 401(K) pension or retirement accounts, among other issues.

“Retaliatory tariffs are bad economic policy in the short and long term,” Gary Shapiro, CEO of the CTA, said in a statement. “The administration’s legally dubious trade war is compromising America’s global leadership.”

Previously-announced tariffs starting Sep. 1 will affect $52 billion in consumer technology products, and the tariffs starting Dec. 15 will affect $115 billion in products. Since July 2018, Section 301 tariffs on China have cost the consumer tech industry over $10 billion, including $1 billion on 5G-related products, according to the CTA.

“Tariffs are taxes,” Shapiro said. “The Chinese government doesn’t pay for them – Americans bear the burden. And next month, we’ll begin to pay more for some of our favorite tech devices – including TVs, smart speakers and desktop computers. The administration should permanently remove these harmful tariffs and find another way to hold China accountable for its unfair trading practices.”

Trade Group Pushes Back Against Trump’s Claim Video Games Incite Violence in Society

In the aftermath of separate mass shootings over the weekend that left 31 people dead and scores wounded, the Entertainment Software Association is pushing back against claims by President Trump and some lawmakers that violence in video games fuels violence in society.

Trump Aug. 5 condemned the attacks carried out by two shooters in their early 20s armed assault weapons.

“Our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” the president said, without calling for tougher gun controls and/or outlawing assault-style weapons — the latter done in New Zealand following the slaughter of Muslim churchgoers by a white nationalist earlier this year.

Trump also called for greater focus on mental health and the end of glorifying violence in society, including “the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.”

Indeed, many games enable first-person shooter scenarios that mimic shooting an assault-weapon at people.

For ESA, whose publishing members include Electronic Arts, Nintendo and Activision Blizzard, the comments hit too close.

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“Numerous scientific studies have established that there is no causal connection between video games and violence,” the ESA said in a statement. “More than 165 million Americans enjoy video games, and billions of people play video games worldwide. Yet other societies, where video games are played as avidly, do not contend with the tragic levels of violence that occur in the U.S.”

Regardless, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), minority leader in the House, told Fox News that many video games dehumanize human life.

Complaints about violence in games isn’t a partisan issue. Hillary Clinton in 2005 co-sponsored a bill that would have made it illegal for minors to purchase video games.

“We’ve watched from studies shown before of what it does to individuals,” McCarthy told Fox News. “When you look at these [shooting] photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”

Twitter Testing ‘Subscription’ Feature

President Trump’s favorite communication platform, Twitter, is reportedly testing a “subscription” option that would enable users to link to threads without commenting or adding a post.

The subscription option is similar to what YouTube and Instagram employ enabling users to keep track of third-party video posts without actively engaging directly or paying for them.

Twitter told DigitalTrends the test is part of the social media platform’s attempt to attract more casual users and entice advertisers.

The social media platform, which recently released an experimental app, Twttr, designed to offer more chat-like features, said it wants to make the service “more conversational.”

Separately, at last week’s SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, Twitter disclosed a new camera for the app affording users easier sharing of videos and photos.