Scrolling for freedom: Montana TikTok ban blocked

A US federal judge has blocked Montana’s controversial ban on TikTok, saying it “violates the Constitution in more ways than one” and “oversteps state power”. The decision is a big win for TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance, who have been in the hot seat this year over alleged ties to the Chinese government.

Montana had been gearing up to implement a state-wide ban on the app on January 1 2024, making it the first and so far only US state to do so. The first-of-its-kind ban would have made it illegal for app stores to offer TikTok to users with a Montana IP address, punishable by a fine of up to 10,000 USD.

TikTok users themselves would not have faced fines for using the app, but many Montana residents whose livelihood depends on the app feared the ban could still hurt profits (e.g., due to the retraction of brand deals). The move was hugely unpopular as a result, spurring local creators to rally together to lodge a lawsuit against the state, which TikTok helped fund.

Montana’s governor Greg Gianforte previously said the ban was designed “to protect Montanans’ personal and private data from being harvested by the Chinese Communist party”. However, Judge Donald Molloy, who just blocked the ban, is not convinced Montana lawmakers acted to protect consumers, but believes they wanted to oppose China first and foremost.

A TikTok spokesperson told the press, “We are 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.” TikTok says it has 150 million users in the US and around 200,000 in Montana, the majority of which are teenagers and young adults.


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