(CTN News) – Montana’s first-of-its-kind state ban on the popular short-video-sharing app TikTok has been halted by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy. T
he judge issued a preliminary injunction, stating that the ban violated the free speech rights of users and exceeded the state’s authority.
The Chinese-owned app, TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, had previously filed a lawsuit against Montana, arguing that the ban infringed upon the company’s and users’ First Amendment rights.
Additionally, TikTok users in Montana also took legal action to prevent the ban, expressing concerns about the protection of their personal data and potential Chinese surveillance.
TikTok expressed satisfaction with the judge’s decision to dismiss this unconstitutional law, allowing numerous Montanans to maintain their freedom of expression, livelihoods, and sense of belonging within the community.
The spokesperson for Montana state attorney general Austin Knudsen’s office, responsible for advocating the ban, acknowledged that the ruling was provisional and acknowledged the possibility of the analysis evolving as the case progresses.
Furthermore, Knudsen’s office stated that it is currently deliberating on its next course of action and eagerly anticipates presenting a comprehensive legal argument to safeguard Montanans from the Chinese Communist Party’s acquisition and utilization of their data.
TikTok has stated in previous court documents that it has not and will not share U.S. user data with the Chinese government. The company has also taken significant measures to safeguard the privacy and security of its users.
Judge Molloy, who was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, acknowledged the validity of several arguments presented by TikTok.
He also highlighted the presence of an underlying anti-Chinese sentiment that is prevalent in the state’s legal case and legislation.
Although Montana had the ability to impose fines of $10,000 for each violation committed by TikTok within the state, the blocked state law did not penalize individual users.
Judge Molloy concluded that Montana’s actions exceeded its authority in terms of foreign policy, as that authority is held by the federal government. He deemed the state’s actions to be overly broad in scope.
Efforts to ban TikTok or impose restrictions on foreign-owned apps have been made by some members of Congress, but these attempts have not progressed. While several states and the U.S. government have prohibited TikTok on government devices, only Montana has attempted to completely ban the app.
In 2020, former President Donald Trump attempted to prevent new downloads of TikTok and WeChat, both owned by Chinese companies, but this ban was ultimately blocked by court decisions.