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U.S. judge blocks Montana’s TikTok ban Leave a comment


TikTok fans in Montana can scroll through their For You page with a sense of relief today. A U.S. judge has blocked the state’s ban on the video sharing app, finding that the bill is likely to be unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy granted TikTok an preliminary injunction against Montana on Thursday, stating that the company is likely to succeed in its argument that Senate Bill 419 (SB 419) violates the First Amendment right to free speech. Molloy also found the ban unconstitutional in that it singled out and imposed a punishment on TikTok without a trial.

“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,” wrote Molloy in his judgement. 

“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.”

If this weren’t enough, Molloy further determined that TikTok is likely to succeed in its argument that SB 419 oversteps Montana’s powers as a state. 

The bill attempts to justify the imposition of a ban by stating that “TikTok is a wholly owned subsidiary of ByteDance, a Chinese Corporation,” and that its “continued operation in Montana serves as a valuable tool to the People’s Republic of China to conduct corporate and international espionage in Montana.” 

Noting that Montana did not provide any evidence to support its allegations, Molloy accepted that by banning TikTok the state was making decisions on national security and foreign commerce — issues which are the domain of the federal government.

“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,” Molloy 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,” TikTok said in a statement.

Signed by Governor Greg Gianforte earlier this year, SB 419 was originally set to go into effect from Jan. 1. This new law would impose a $10,000 fine on TikTok for continuing to operate in Montana, as well as on app stores for offering the app for download within the state. An additional $10,000 daily fine would also be applied for every day the breach continues. 

Though the bill does exclude mere TikTok users from such penalties, the heavy fines would make the company’s continued operation in Montana unfeasible. As such, TikTok sued Montana just days after the bill was made law. Several TikTok creators also filed a lawsuit against the state on the same basis.

“We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an exceedingly strong set of precedents and facts,” a TikTok spokesperson told Mashable at the time. It seems as though that confidence wasn’t misplaced.


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