Judge blocks Montana’s TikTok ban from taking effect on January 1

Nov 30, 2023, 5:49 PM | Updated: May 28, 2024, 10:51 am

The TikTok logo is displayed on signage outside TikTok social media app company offices in Culver C...

The TikTok logo is displayed on signage outside TikTok social media app company offices in Culver City, California, on March 16. A federal judge on Thursday halted Montana’s TikTok ban, which was set to go into effect at the start of 2024.(Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

(Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNN) — A federal judge on Thursday halted Montana’s TikTok ban, which was set to go into effect at the start of 2024.

In a filing, US District Judge Donald Molloy said that despite the state government’s attempt to defend the law, “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.”

Montana’s attorney general and governor’s offices did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The law, which was set to be the first of its kind in the nation, prohibited the app from operating within state lines, outlining potential fines of $10,000 per day for violators. It was signed into law by Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte in May, who said the law was necessary to protect Montantans’ personal data “from the Chinese Communist Party.”

Montana’s law was challenged by TikTok and a group of the app’s content creators, who argued, in part, that the ban infringes on their First Amendment rights.

The decision comes as lawmakers grapple with TikTok’s ties to China. The social media app is owned by China-based ByteDance. Many US officials have expressed fears that the Chinese government could potentially access US data via TikTok for spying purposes, though there is so far no evidence that the Chinese government has ever accessed the personal information of US-based TikTok users.

The legal battle has been closely watched because it is viewed as a bellwether for TikTok’s future in the United States, where dozens of states and the US government have already banned the app on official devices but have so far refrained from blocking the app on private devices.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other state governments have attempted their own methods to reel in TikTok, which counts 150 million people in the United States as users, according to the company. On Thursday, another judge dismissed a lawsuit against TikTok filed by the state of Indiana, accusing the company of making false claims about the safety of user data and age-appropriate content. The judge in that case, Judge Jennifer DeGroote, said the court “lacks personal jurisdiction” over TikTok, according to court documents.

Montana’s attempted ban marked the furthest step yet by a state government to restrict TikTok over perceived security concerns.

At an October hearing, Molloy slammed Montana’s legislation as being driven by “paternalistic” views of social media users, suggesting lawmakers could have taken other steps short of an attempted ban to achieve their goals.

CNN’s Samantha Murphy Kelly and Brian Fung contributed to reporting.

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Judge blocks Montana’s TikTok ban from taking effect on January 1