TikTok Ban in Montana Blocked By Federal Judge

TikTok Montana ban
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TikTok Montana ban
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Photo Credit: Christopher Zarriello

One month before Montana’s nation-first law banning TikTok in the state would have gone into effect, a federal judge has blocked the measure, calling it unconstitutional.

On Thursday, November 30, a federal judge blocked Montana’s law banning video-sharing social app TikTok in the state one month before it would have gone into effect, calling the measure unconstitutional. The law would have been the first in the nation to ban TikTok entirely throughout the state.

US District Judge Donald Molloy said the ban “oversteps state power and infringes on the Constitutional right of users and businesses,” while criticizing the state’s fixation on purported Chinese influence rather than overarching consumer protections.

“Despite the state’s attempt to defend (the measure) 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,” wrote Molloy. “This is especially apparent in that the same legislature enacted an entirely separate law that purports to broadly protect consumers’ digital data and privacy.”

Though the ruling is a temporary solution, it provides a win for TikTok, which has argued that Montana’s government has gone “completely overboard” in its efforts to regulate the app. A final ruling will come at a later date.

In May, Montana lawmakers became the first in the nation to pass legislature to enact a complete ban on TikTok based on the argument that the Chinese government could have access to user information via the app’s Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance. The measure was first brought before Montana’s legislature only weeks after a Chinese balloon was identified flying over the state.

The ban was scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2024, and would prohibit downloads of TikTok within the state. Fines of $10,000 per day were to be issued to any “entity,” such as app stores or TikTok itself, for each time someone “is offered the ability” to access or download the app. Users would receive no penalties.

Jamal Brown, a spokesperson for TikTok, released a statement saying the company was pleased that 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.”

While Montana’s law would be the first within the country to ban the app entirely, over half of the states in the US and the federal government have already banned TikTok on official devices. TikTok has called these bans “political theatre.”