Montana's attempt to ban TikTok in the state blocked by federal judge

 December 2, 2023

A Montana law passed last year that would have banned the popular Chinese-backed app, TikTok, ran into a major roadblock this week. 

According to the New York Post, a federal judge blocked the new law that would ban the app in Montana, which was the first-of-its-kind state law.

The judge in the case, District Judge Donald Molloy, cited freedom of speech concerns in the preliminary injunction he ordered against the law.

Judge Molloy said the law "oversteps state power and infringes on the constitutional rights of users."

The law met heavy resistance earlier this year, as TikTok users in the state, along with the company itself, filed lawsuits to stop the law in its tracks. That legal battle played out in May.

The purpose of the law was to ban the app because it poses security risks for U.S. users, including the transmission of user data back to China. TikTok has said it now uses U.S. based Oracle to house its U.S. user data.

The Post noted:

TikTok said in a court filing it “has not shared, and would not share, US user data with the Chinese government, and has taken substantial measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok users.”

According to a recent Politico report, the injunction, while technically temporary, will likely stand the test of time.

Judge Donald Molloy’s Thursday ruling technically only stalls Montana’s plans to block the popular video-sharing app for its residents starting in the new year. But several experts said the decision — which found the law to be a violation of the First Amendment — likely foreclosed on the idea of a broad, nationwide ban of TikTok or that copycat bills would move in other states.

There's a bipartisan effort gaining steam in Congress that would result in the crafting of a bill to give the White House more power to selectively ban certain apps tied to foreign adversaries.

Ryan Wrasse, a spokesperson for Sen. John Thune (R-SD), commented on the most recent ruling and noted that it will take a more nuanced approach to targeting certain apps as opposed to outright bans, which are likely to die in the courts on free speech grounds.

"The court ruling demonstrates the legal and constitutional difficulties an outright ban faces," Wrasse said.

TikTok reported that about one-third of Montana residents are TikTok users, and the company has about 150 million users across the United States, making it one of the most popular social media platforms out there.

Only time will tell if the judge's ruling changes course.