Federal Judge Blocks Montana’s TikTok Ban

A US district judge has halted Montana’s pioneering attempt to ban TikTok, scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2024. The judge’s decision dealt a blow to the state’s first-in-the-nation ban on the popular video app, asserting that the prohibition “oversteps state power” and appears more targeted at China’s perceived role in TikTok than safeguarding Montana consumers.

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed the controversial law in May, aiming to impose a comprehensive ban on TikTok across the state. The law, which goes beyond restrictions implemented by over 30 states and federal agencies, faced legal challenges from TikTok and five Montana-based content creators.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, in a preliminary injunction issued on Thursday, acknowledged that TikTok presented “the better arguments” and demonstrated a likelihood of success on the legal merits. While the ban could potentially be reinstated following an unscheduled trial, Molloy’s injunction raised concerns about the law’s constitutionality and the absence of evidence supporting claims of Chinese interference.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who drafted the law, expressed a preliminary stance, emphasizing that the matter was ongoing and the analysis might evolve as the case progressed. Emilee Cantrell, a spokeswoman for Knudsen, stated, “We look forward to presenting the complete legal argument to defend the law that protects Montanans from the Chinese Communist Party obtaining and using their data.”

TikTok, owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, welcomed the judge’s decision. A TikTok spokesperson, Alex Haurek, stated, “We are pleased the judge rejected this unconstitutional law and hundreds of thousands of Montanans can continue to express themselves, earn a living, and find community on TikTok.”

Montana’s argument that TikTok posed a national security risk, allowing potential spying or indoctrination of Montanans, faced skepticism from the court. Molloy’s 48-page injunction highlighted the ban’s infringement on the First Amendment, potentially violating free speech rights for over 300,000 Montanans who use the app.

The legal clash between the state and TikTok gained national attention, with civil liberties groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, celebrating the injunction. David Greene, EFF’s director of civil liberties, stated, “We are pleased that a federal judge has blocked the state from violating their rights by banning this speech platform.”

This development follows a trend of legal challenges against TikTok bans initiated by Republican-led states. While Montana’s ban faced setbacks, other states, such as Indiana, have seen similar attempts dismissed by the courts.

Information for this briefing was found via the Washington Post, Axios, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

Leave a Reply