TikTok’s Ban in Montana Just Got Blocked





A Montana judge blocked the state’s total block on TikTok, saying the bill banning the popular app violates First Amendment rights and oversteps state power.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy last Thursday issued a preliminary injunction against Montana last Thursday on the grounds that Senate Bill 419 violates citizens’ right to free speech. Montana is the only state that has passed legislation making downloading or supplying access to the app illegal.

In his judgment, Molloy noted TikTok was banned without trial and singled out from other social media platforms, which collect data in a similar manner.

“Although numerous companies, both foreign and domestic, operate social media platforms, communications services, and online entertainment platforms in Montana, the TikTok Ban prohibits TikTok – and only TikTok – based on purported concerns about its data practices,” said Molloy, according to Mashable. “The TikTok Ban singles out the TikTok application for this punishment, notwithstanding that the data allegedly collected by the app is no different in kind than data collected from any number of other sources and that is widely available in the data broker market.”

The preliminary injunction effectively blocks the ruling while the bill itself works its way through court. When the bill passed in May, TikTok said the government had “no feasible plan” to monitor “this attempt to censor American voices realistically” and filed a lawsuit against the state. 

After Molloy’s judgment, TikTok posted on X saying, “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 ok TikTok.”

This isn’t the first time TikTok faced digital banishment, although no other state has issued a statewide ban on the app. Concerns surrounding the safety of TikTok stem from rumors circulating that its parent company, ByteDance, hoards user data and could share personal information and locations with the Chinese government. The belief was further fueled by an unsuccessful attempt by Trump to ban the app throughout the U.S. in 2020, according to NPR, although other government officials have expressed their worries about TikTok as well. 

In justifying the bill, lawmakers  also cited privacy concerns for its citizens, claiming the company conducts “corporate and international espionage in Montana.” It also said TikTok promotes and fails to remove dangerous activities such as “cooking chicken in NyQuil” and “attempting to break an unsuspecting passerby’s skull by tripping.”

The judge said Montana did not provide evidence to support its claims that the platform threatens national security.

“Despite the State’s attempt to defend SB 419 as a consumer protection bill, the current record leaves little doubt that Montana’s legislature and Attorney General were more interested in targeting China’s ostensible role in TikTok than with protecting Montana consumers,” said Molloy. Montana’s Attorney General plans to gather evidence and file an appeal.

On May 17, Montana’s Governor Greg Gianforte signed SB 419 into law, which would make using TikTok illegal throughout the entire state starting January 1, 2024. App stores would be fined $10,000 per violation per day for any downloads detected in Montana. This is the most aggressive TikTok ban to date, having drawn criticism from the ACLU and other civil liberties groups. Gianforte previously banned the app on all state-issued devices, again expressing security concerns.

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