U.S. judge blocks Montana’s ban on TikTok, calls it unconstitutional

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A federal judge ruled Thursday that Montana can’t enforce a first-in-the-nation law banning the video sharing app TikTok in the state while a legal challenge to the law moves through the courts.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said the ban “oversteps state power and infringes on the Constitutional right of users and businesses.”

The ban had been scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1.

Montana’s Republican-controlled Legislature made the state the first in the U.S. to pass a complete ban on the app, based on the argument that the Chinese government could gain access to user information from TikTok, whose parent company, ByteDance, is based in Beijing.

Western governments have expressed worries that the popular social media platform could put sensitive data in the hands of the Chinese government or be used as a tool to spread misinformation. Chinese law allows the government to order companies to help it gather intelligence.

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Attorneys for TikTok and the content creators argued on Oct. 12 that the state has gone “completely overboard” in trying to regulate TikTok and is essentially trying to implement its own foreign policy over unproven concerns that TikTok might share user data with the Chinese government.

TikTok has said in court filings that Montana could have limited the kinds of data TikTok could collect from its users rather than enacting a complete ban. Meanwhile, the content creators say the ban violates free speech rights and could cause economic harm for their businesses.

Christian Corrigan, the state’s solicitor general, argued Montana’s law was less a statement of foreign policy and instead addresses “serious, widespread concerns about data privacy.”

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