Judge Throws Out Montana’s TikTok Ban

A significant development in Montana is that a federal judge has blocked the TikTok ban, which was scheduled to take effect on January 1. The ban, signed into law by Republican Governor Greg Gianforte in May, was the first of its kind in the state and aimed to restrict the use of the popular video platform.

In his initial injunction, Judge Donald Molloy declared that the law “exceeds state authority and encroaches upon the Constitutional rights of businesses and users.” This decision brings relief to the hundreds of thousands of Montanans who rely on TikTok as a platform for self-expression, livelihood, and community engagement.

The discussion regarding TikTok has persisted on both federal and state fronts, primarily fueled by apprehensions about user privacy stemming from the app’s ownership by the China-based company ByteDance. While it is accurate that all Chinese companies maintain connections with the Chinese Communist Party, the escalating tensions between the United States and China have intensified concerns about access to user data, placing TikTok in the midst of the conflict.

TikTok has consistently denied any data-sharing with the Chinese government. However, opinions on the issue of privacy are divided. Some argue that bans on social media platforms impede freedom of speech, while others emphasize the need to protect personal information.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) quickly criticized the ban when it was first introduced, describing it as unconstitutional. The organization applauded the judge’s decision, stating that it upholds the rights of people in the state to free speech.

The outcome of this case remains uncertain, with no definitive timeline for a final decision. Experts have cast doubt on the ban’s enforceability from the start. During a March hearing, a TechNet representative highlighted the challenges of geofencing apps on a state-by-state basis, making it improbable for the restriction to be effectively implemented through popular app marketplaces.

Nevertheless, the original bill specified severe consequences for violators, including a fine of $10,000 per violation and an additional $10,000 for each day the violation persisted.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen responded to the judge’s ruling, acknowledging that it is a preliminary matter and that the case’s analysis could change as it progresses. Knudsen expressed eagerness to present a comprehensive legal argument that defends the law, which seeks to protect Montanans from the Chinese Communist Party accessing and exploiting their data.

As the legal battle continues, the fate of the TikTok ban in Montana hangs in the balance. In the meantime, TikTok users and businesses in the state can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they can continue to enjoy the platform’s features and opportunities without interruption.