On Thursday, a Montana judge blocked the ban on TikTok from taking effect in 2019.
According to documents obtained by NBC News, U.S. district judge Donald Molloy has issued a preliminary order saying that the bill “oversteps the state’s power and violates the constitutional rights” of the users.
Montana was the first state in May to ban TikTok, after Gov. Greg Gianforte signed SB 419. The ban was scheduled to take effect in January of 2024. The ban would have been violated every time an app was made available to users. The Montana Justice Department could impose a $10,000 fine for each violation. TikTok, the app stores and not Montanans who use the app would be held responsible for any violations.
Five content creators — Samantha Alario and Heather DiRocco — filed a lawsuit after the bill’s signing, claiming that the ban violated their right to freedom of expression while also exercising “power over the national security” which Montana did not possess.
Emilee Cantrell said that the Montana Attorney General’s Office is still evaluating Molloy’s ruling.
She said that “the judge has indicated multiple times that the analysis may change as the case progresses and the State will have the opportunity to present a complete factual record” in an email to NBC News. “We are looking forward to presenting a complete legal argument in defense of the law protecting Montanans against the Chinese Communist Party using and obtaining their data.”
A spokesperson from TikTok didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.
Molloy interrogated representatives from the office of the attorney general in Missoula during an Oct. 12, 2012 hearing. He asked if Christian Corrigan, Montana’s Solicitor-General, found it “a bit strange” that other states had not followed Montana’s example in banning TikTok.
Everyone on TikTok gives their personal information voluntarily. How can you protect them if they are willing to share their personal information with whatever platform it is?” Molloy questioned Corrigan at the hearing.
Corrigan responded that Montanans don’t “know what they are doing.” They are exposing themselves to Chinese military. We need to ban TikTok users from exercising their individual liberties.
Alexander Berengaut argued, as an attorney for TikTok that the ban was a violation of federal law, because it created a foreign policy that only applied to Montana.
TikTok is still under scrutiny by many state and federal officials, who cite security concerns. According to The Associated Press “more than 50 states in the United States and the federal government has banned TikTok for official devices.”
Utah lawsuit claims that TikTok uses its technology to engage children with its content. This could include harmful materials. Arkansas as well as Indiana both filed suits against TikTok citing concerns about child safety.
The Biden administration previously threatened to ban the video-sharing app if Chinese owners refused sell their stakes.
Shou Zichew , TikTok CEO, testified in March before Congress to address concerns. He said that the social media platform was safe for teens and other users. A few TikTok creators also rallied in Washington, D.C. , to show their support and protest against a possible ban.