Federal judge blocks law banning TikTok in Montana

Governor, Greg Gianforte, approved a rule banning the use of the social network for all citizens of the state as of January 1, 2024.

TikTok continues to generate controversy in the United States. The social network, considered by many to be a threat to national security, was banned by Republican Governor, Greg Gianforte, in May of this year, making Montana the first state to completely ban the use of the social network. Through this law, Gianforte prevented all citizens living in the state from using the platform as of January 1.

However, federal Judge, Donald Malloy, on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction blocking state law SB 419. Alleging that the rule "oversteps state power and infringes on the constitutional rights of users":

Despite the state’s attempt to defend the law 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. This is especially apparent in that the same legislature enacted an entirely separate law that purports to broadly protect consumers’ digital data and privacy.

In this way, NBC reports, the court order prevents, for the time being, the rule that ensured that an infraction was committed every time a Montanan downloaded the application, and that imposed fines of up to $10,000 each time that happened, from entering into force for the moment. However, it was not the citizens who bore the fine, but rather the law held TikTok and the app stores responsible.

The state of Montana, at war with TikTok

That caused both content creators and ByteDance, the parent company of the social network, to sue the state. However, the law continued until Malloy issued the block.

A news that the platform celebrated, as stated by a TikTok spokesperson, who through a statement sent to AP by email assured that the social network is 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."

For its part, the state of Montana does not seem concerned about the blockade. According to Emilee Cantrell, spokesperson for the Montana Attorney General's office, in a statement reported by NBC, Malloy's block "is a preliminary matter at this point":

The judge indicated several times that the analysis could change as the case proceeds and the State has the opportunity to present a full factual record. We look forward to presenting the complete legal argument to defend the law that protects Montanans from the Chinese Communist Party obtaining and using their data.