Montana made headlines earlier this year when it became the first state in the U.S. to ban TikTok. But now, a judge ruled the move unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said the ban “oversteps state power and infringes on the Constitutional right of users and businesses,” the Associated Press reports. The judge further stated that while lawmakers pushed the ban as a consumer protection move, the group seemed more concerned with “targeting China’s ostensible role in TikTok than with protecting Montana consumers.” Judge Molloy further contended that the state failed to provide evidence of TikTok’s “allegedly harmful data practices” in its argument.
“This is especially apparent in that the same legislature enacted an entirely separate law that purports to broadly protect consumers’ digital data and privacy,” the judge continues.
The ban would have taken effect on January 1 and would have opened app stores like the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store liable for a $10,000 fine each day a person in the state is “offered the ability” to access or download the app. The AP also notes critics’ arguments that the law would be difficult to enforce.
Of course, Montana was not the first to float a ban. Former president Donald Trump threatened as much during his tenure unless the U.S. side of the app sold, moving it away from China. That did not come to fruition, but now current president Joe Biden has been mulling over restrictions himself. Further, federal employees in the U.S., and government employees in other countries as well, have been barred from using the app on official devices.
Though the latest move is certainly a win for the video-based social media app, its legal fights are not done. In addition to the restrictions on government devices, the app has been banned in India and Nepal, and other lawmakers continue to leave TikTok in their crosshairs. Conversations around the app extend beyond the privacy and content concerns that other social media sites like X (formerly Twitter) and Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram also face, instead morphing into discourse on political relations with China. Montana’s attempted ban in question is just one example of that, introduced not long after a Chinese spy balloon was spotted flying over the state.
Still, TikTok seems to be taking its victory lap, as spokesperson Jamal Brow tells the AP in a statement that the company is 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.” All that’s left for users and spectators to do now is wait for the inevitable next step in the continuing legal battles.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.